All because of a voice that spoke to you early one morning.
Whatever it was, we’re glad you made that decision to come back for one last voyage. We’ve all been truly blest by your second coming. In the years we’ve known you you’ve shown us that you are king at everything fundamental in the game: control and passing. That you are blessed with such sublime skill only underscores your rightful position at the top of football’s pantheon.
We remember learning of your prodigious genius while you were still at Cannes and Bordeaux, in those years when France conspired to stay in international football wilderness for so long. Those were strange days when your compatriotes seemingly preferred cooing over Alain Prost and David Ginola instead. We understand the case for Prost, but Ginola? Perhaps they like some measure of follicle strength in their idols. We never quite understood.
How ironic that your adversaries this Sunday turn out to be your hosts who first propelled you to greatness, and that Signor Lippi, your old mentor at Juventus, will be occupying the space in the opposite dugout. Surely it couldn’t have been that long ago that you both set about your business terrorizing Serie A and Europe with such élan and aplomb.
Still, these Italians are affable wallahs and we expect we’ll be seeing satellite images of either one of you giving the other a consoling cuddle when the curtains finally fall on a remarkable Germany 2006, whichever way the whistle blows.
The last occasion you faced the Italians in the World Cup resulted in a dour stalemate, and penalties, which France eventually won. How telling that it was indeed another penalty that got France into what must probably now be the biggest game of your life. We also imagine they haven’t actually forgotten the Euro 2002 episode two years on, when the carpet of victory was pulled from beneath their designer feet. It all makes for a great climax on Sunday.
And who could forget that magnificent goal at the Champions League final of 2002, perhaps the greatest memory of you in the white of Real Madrid. We all expected to see much more of the same in the weeks that followed in Japan and Korea; alas, that wasn’t to be – the seasons took its toll, and what ensued was so much less an embarrassment for France than it was an unkind blemish on your impeccable résumé.
Come Sunday, even that episode will serve as a mere turning point in your astonishing career.
Witnessing you defy the passage of time in those games against Spain, Brazil and Portugal these past two weeks reminded us once again just how great a player you are.
Seeing you put fire back in your teammates’ bellies, and lightning back in their veins, reminded us once again of how great a leader you are.
Watching you lead your country out for one last time in Berlin this Sunday will remind us once again exactly how great a man you are.
You are already immortal, Zizou... but that glint in your eye tells us that you may yet give us one more memory of your immense greatness.
God speed, and God bless you wherever you go after that.
Le seigneur, moi donnent juste un plus momente