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Zidane makes world record move to Real Madrid

© Reuters Limited 2001

By Simon Baskett

MADRID, July 9 (Reuters) - Zinedine Zidane became the world's most expensive player on Monday, signing a four-year contract to join Real Madrid from Juventus for a fee worth up to $64.5 million on Monday. "It is a great honour to come here to this great club," France's World Cup and Euro 2000 winnner told reporters at his presentation to the media before being handed the club's famous all-white shirt by the club's honorary president Alfredo Di Stefano. "I have waited impatiently for this moment and I think that after five years at Juventus it was the right time to make a move," midfielder Zidane, the World Player of the Year, said. "Real Madrid have shown in the past and present that they are one of the world's great clubs and I hope that I will be able to do as well if not better than I did at Juventus." Earlier in the day the player confirmed on his personal website, www.zidane.fr, that he had signed for the Spanish club.

"I can officially confirm that I have signed a four-year contract which includes an option for an additional year at Real Madrid for between 480 and 500 million francs ($61.87 and $64.45 million)," he said. It was the second time within the space of a year that the Spanish club has smashed the world transfer record. Last year Real paid $56.1 million to buy Luis Figo out of his contract with arch-rivals Barcelona.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez confirmed that the signing had brought about the fulfilment of his desire to bring the world's best players to the club ready for its centenary to be celebrated in 2002.

"I've said before that certain players were born to play for Real Madrid and fit perfectly the characteristics needed to play at this club and Zinedine Zidane is one such player," he said. "I am confident that Zidane will shine even more brightly than before and that his presence will make this great club even greater. "Real Madrid was awarded the title of the greatest team of the century last year and we are now constructing a Real Madrid team which will achieve the same in the 21st century," Perez concluded. Hundreds of reporters packed a sports hall in Real Madrid's city centre training ground, the Ciudad Deportiva, to witness the unveiling of the World Player of the Year.

The club had to change the presentation from the usual venue of the trophy room at the Bernabeu because it was deemed too small to accommodate the media. Beneath a huge poster bearing the player's image and the slogan "Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid" and alongside ranks of television screens showing video footage of the player in action, the Frenchman, wearing a dark suit and tie, made his first appearance as a Real player. Reports suggest that the 29-year-old player will earn 1,000 million pesetas ($5.08 million) after tax for each of his seasons at Real Madrid.

Zidane, who flew in to the military airbase of Torrejon close to Madrid in a private jet on Sunday evening, underwent a medical on Monday morning. Real were in a hurry to close the deal with the Serie A club as Zidane is due to travel to Moscow on Thursday to lend his support to the Paris bid to stage the 2008 Olympic Games. Ever since he took over the club last summer Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has made no secret of his desire to buy the Frenchman, regarded by many as the most complete player in the world.

Juventus initially insisted that they would not sell him but after the player apparently gave his go-ahead to the operation and following a meeting between Perez and directors of the Serie A club, the move to the Spanish club was finally agreed upon. Perez met the Juventus directors in Switzerland at the beginning of last week when they agreed on the world record transfer fee which will bring the Frenchman to play for the eight-times European champions next season.

The arrival of the Frenchman has generated what the Spanish media have chosen to dub "Zidane mania". Hundreds of spectators gathered outside the Ciudad Deportiva in the hope of catching a glimpse of Real Madrid's new signing.

Radio and television stations followed every step of Zidane's journey across Madrid as the Frenchman made his way from his medical at a private clinic to his presentation. Employees at the Real Madrid club confirmed that the club had already received a massive delivery of shirts bearing the player's name. Sales of the Zidane shirt are expected to exceed those of any other player in the star-studded Real squad and will comprise the first stage in the club's plan to recoup the world record fee.

Reports provided by

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