Zidane: My biggest regret was not playing with Scholes
Published 23:00 21/08/10 By Paul Smith
Zinedine Zidane knows precisely why England continue to knock on Paul Scholes’s door six years after he called time on international duty.
England coach Fabio Capello will once again attempt to talk the 35-year-old Manchester United midfielder into coming out of retirement, despite failing with a last-ditch bid to take him to the World Cup in the summer.
Yet it is no coincidence that the two England managers who preceded him — Steve McClaren and Sven Goran Eriksson — also tried and failed to get the red-head to represent his country again.
To this day Zidane’s declaration that Scholes was his toughest opponent is used as the ultimate tribute to the United star. Assessing Capello’s latest move to woo Scholes, Zidane said: “It’s only natural to want to select your best players and there is no doubt for me that Paul Scholes is still in a class of his own.
“He’s almost untouchable in what he does. I never tire of watching him play. You rarely come across the complete footballer, but Scholes is as close to it as you can get.
“One of my regrets is that the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career.”
Zidane’s status as the greatest midfielder of the past 20 years remains unchallenged.
He mixed breath-taking skills and a lethal eye for goal with a physical power that few opponents could live with.
Physically he stood head and shoulders above Scholes, but in terms of football skills and savvy he regards the Old Trafford hero as his equal. Zidane went on: “He was an extremely tough opponent to play against. You didn’t get any time on the ball when he was around. He would close you down and make your life terribly uncomfortable.
“He is the type of player you want on your side, not in opposition because he could do so much damage.
“He is very gifted. He makes the game look easy because he’s so much natural ability.”
There is no doubt Scholes’s decision to call time on his international career was a contributing factor in his on-going success at United.
Zidane said: “It has enabled him to solely concentrate on club football which has undoubtedly extended his domestic playing career.
“You have to adapt as you get older. You don’t have strength and energy in abundance. You have to compensate for you age and listen to your body.”
Ironically, Zidane came out of retirement to play for France again in 2005, leading his country to the World Cup Final in Germany a year later.
The fairy-tale ending to a magnificent career ended in turmoil, though, when he was sent off in France’s defeat to Italy for butting Massimo Matterazzi.
Scholes has admitted he made a mistake not going to South Africa with England when they came calling, but it remains unsure whether he’d return for a gruelling Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Zidane added: “Life is full of regrets, but it doesn’t pay to look back.
“When I returned I was given lots of time to consider my position. I’m not sure he was afforded the same luxury.”
Zidane ended: “Sir Alex [Ferguson] has been a huge influence on Scholes – someone he respects and listens to.
“I’m not sure Sir Alex would encourage him to return, but would be quick to point out the drawbacks.”