Why did Zidane headbutt Materazzi? Reasons for France star's World Cup 2006 meltdown explained

Zinedine Zidane Marco Materazzi
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An all-time great collected a red card in his final appearance as a professional footballer, but what caused him to lose his cool?

Zinedine Zidane will forever be remembered as one of the greats of the game, but his last outing in the most illustrious of careers was marred by a reckless red card in a 2006 World Cup final outing for France against Italy. A man that landed three FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d’Or, alongside inspiring his country to global glory in 1998, bowed out under a cloud at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

The Juventus and Real Madrid legend headed into retirement at the age of 34, but what caused the meltdown that led to his infamous dismissal against the Azzurri and why did that incident come to pass? GOAL takes a look...

Why was Zinedine Zidane shown a red card in the 2006 World Cup final?

The two men at the centre of a remarkable coming together found themselves very much front and centre throughout the 2006 World Cup final.

Zidane broke the deadlock in that contest from the spot inside seven minutes, only to see Marco Materazzi restore parity with 19 minutes on the clock.

The game would remain locked at 1-1, forcing the contest into extra-time and eventually a penalty shootout.

Zidane was unable to step up from 12 yards for a second time as he was given his marching orders in the 110th minute after tangling with Materazzi midway inside the Italian half.

An off the ball incident was not spotted by match referee Horacio Elizondo, and these were the days before VAR, but consultation with the fourth official resulted in an all-time great heading for an early bath.

Replays showed Zidane in discussion with Materazzi as both made their way up field, with the former lashing out at the latter as he planted a headbutt into the Italian’s chest and left him rolling around on the turf.

What did Marco Materazzi say to Zinedine Zidane?

Zinedine Zidane 2006 World Cup final

There were suggestions at the time that Materazzi had made a comment about Zidane’s mother, but he always refuted those accusations and won a libel case against the British media in 2009 in a bid to clear his name.

An enigmatic character never revealed exactly what was said until telling Spanish publication AS in 2020: “Zidane's headbutt? I wasn't expecting it in that moment. I was lucky enough that the whole episode took me by surprise because if I had expected something like that to happen and had been ready for it, I'm sure both of us would have ended up being sent off.

“There had been a bit of contact between us in the area. He had scored France's goal in the first half and our coach (Marcello Lippi) told me to mark him. After that first brush between us, I apologised but he reacted badly.

“After the third clash, I frowned and he retorted: 'I'll give you my shirt later'. I replied that I'd rather have his sister than his shirt.

“My words were stupid but did not deserve that reaction. In any neighbourhood of Rome, Naples, Turin, Milan Paris, I hear much more serious things.

“I talked about his sister not his mother, like I have read in some newspapers. My mother died while I was a teenager, I would never insult his.”

Does Zinedine Zidane have any regrets?

Zinedine Zidane 2006

France went on to lose 5-3 on penalties, with David Trezeguet fluffing his lines for Les Bleus, and Zidane was quick to apologise for his costly rush of blood when disappointed team-mates returned to the dressing room with silver medals in hand.

Former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre, who formed part of the French squad at the tournament, told talkSPORT: “He was already in the dressing room before us and he took his shower so he apologised.

“I didn’t know why he was apologising. It was only when I went to the media that I saw the replay of the headbutt and I thought ‘wow, wow, wow, okay.’

“But what can you say? You’re not going to tell off God!

“He was very introverted but you have to realise before that incident he had already collected 10 red cards in his career. There were times where he’d lose it but sometime a lot of geniuses lose their head.”

Zidane has stayed tight-lipped on the incident down the years, preferring instead to focus on the present and future, telling Telefoot in 2022 when asked if he has any regrets: “I’m not at all proud of what I did but it’s part of my past.”

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