There is no doubting that Zinedine Zidane’s 2001 move to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu changed Real Madrid’s history for the better, but the origins of the transfer were as subtle as the Frenchman’s thunderous goals were not.
It can all be traced back to a napkin passed between the then-Juventus player and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez during a Champions League awards ceremony in Monaco.
“Would you like to come and play in Madrid?” was the message Perez wrote on the napkin before passing it across the table to Zidane.
“Yes!” was his emphatic response.
The rest, as they say, is history. His move to the Spanish capital was announced on July 5, 2001, with Los Blancos sending a then-record 76 million euros to Turin for the privilege.
Having won two Serie A titles with Juventus and having led France to glory at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, Zidane’s quality was obvious and Perez took the initiative.
From the player’s point of view, joining a team which had won two Champions Leagues in four years was an offer he could not refuse.
The results were almost immediate as he produced one of the all-time great European final goals at Hampden Park at the end of his first Spanish season to help his new side win their ninth European Cup.
He’d help them to a 10th as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant in 2014, an 11th as head coach in 2016 and is now one win over his former team away from lifting that famous trophy once again.
It all started with that napkin in Monte Carlo.