Cicinho reveals Perez’s last-ditch attempt to keep Zidane at Real Madrid

Fans, team-mates and club officials did not want to see the icon retire, so much so that the Blancos supremo was ready to bust out the cheque book

Former Real Madrid right-back Cicinho has revealed that club president Florentino Perez essentially offered Zinedine Zidane a blank cheque to prevent him from retiring back in 2006, with the incident having happened in the dressing room after Zizou’s final club match.

Los Blancos played out a 3-3 draw with Villarreal at the Santiago Bernabeu in Zidane’s last game, the iconic midfielder having struggled to hold back the tears as he waved goodbye to fans in the Spanish capital.

Zidane, who was 34 at the time, actually had one year left to run on his contract but had made the decision to call time on his club career ahead of the 2006 World Cup.

Despite his age, there were plenty of people who wanted Zidane to continue at Madrid, including the club’s president, who offered him an exorbitant salary packet to try and convince him to stay.

“In his farewell match, Zidane was very emotional,” Cicinho told ESPN. “We were also as he was a legend who was leaving the game. 

“Then, Florentino Perez came into the dressing room and greeted the players one by one. What happened next was unforgettable.

“Real Madrid’s highest salary at the time was €6.5 million (£6m/$7m). [Former Madrid attacker] Robinho jokingly said: ‘Mr. President, Zizou said that if you sign a two-year contract for €6.5 million, he won’t stop playing’.

“Everyone laughed, but Florentino was serious and replied: ‘If you want, I will bring you the paper now so that you can sign it’.”

Cicinho explained that all eyes turned to his team-mate at that point, adding: “Zidane thought about it for a second, looked at him and said, ‘No, no… I don’t want any more’.”

An import from Sao Paolo in 2005, Cicinho spent only one season together with Zidane, but that was more than enough to witness and absorb the Frenchman’s special talents.

“Zidane was like the conductor of an orchestra,” the Brazilian said. “He always helped us position ourselves on the field. Before games, he guided everyone. He was already a coach on the pitch [back then].

“Florentino always said that Zidane played with a suit, such was his elegance on the field. He didn’t even break a sweat! It was beautiful to watch him play.”