PARIS: France playmaker Zinedine Zidane announced on Thursday that he was ending his international career after a 10-year spell with Les Bleus.
“My international career is over now,” said the 32-year-old playmaker on his website. “I called the coach yesterday to let him know I had made up my mind. I think it was the right time to say 'stop'. At least, it was the time for me to do so,” he said.
France coach Raymond Domenech confirmed the news as he unveiled his squad for next week's friendly against Bosnia.
“Zidane will not play for France anymore. I'm sorry about it. I would have liked him to carry on. He thought he had to leave the place to young players,” said Domenech.
Zidane has had a long and successful career with France, winning the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European championship.
His retirement closes a glorious chapter in French soccer history with only goalkeeper Fabien Barthez remaining from the team that beat Brazil to become world champions in 1998.
Zidane's announcement came after defenders Lilian Thuram, Bixente Lizarazu and captain Marcel Desailly all called time on their international careers since the end of Euro 2004.
“This is the end of a story,” Zidane said. “It's important to know when your time to go has come. Some players had done it in 2000 and in 2002. Others like me are doing it now.”
The French number 10 who earned 93 caps and scored 26 goals for France said that he had been considering his international retirement for quite some time.
“I had this idea even before the European championship. I think I would have left even if we had a good result. Obviously it's easier to leave when you lose than when you win.”
“There is a day when you understand that he have to make room for the youths, to leave them enough time to prepare themselves for the 2006 World Cup.”
Zidane, widely regarded as the best French player since Michel Platini, made his debut with Les Bleus in August 1994 as a substitute against Czech Republic, scoring two goals in three minutes to help France come from behind and earn a 2-2 draw.
He made his professional debuts in Cannes before joining Girondins Bordeaux in 1992 and then to Juventus in 1996.
His transfer from the Italian club to Real Madrid was worth a record 75mil euros in 2001. His contract with the Spanish team runs until 2007.
“My decision is going to give me more time to focus on my job with Madrid,” he said. “I will also have more time to rest throughout the season.”
The Frenchman said his best memory with France was the 1998 World Cup final when he headed two goals in the first half of the 3-0 victory over Brazil.
“I will always remember all these people celebrating and chanting in the streets.
“The colour of the skin didn't matter anymore. There was only the joy.
“It will remain like one of the greatest moments in my life.”