How many of you got emotional on 2 June seeing the number 21 shirt hanging up in the Juventus dressing room again, waiting for its rightful owner to put it on? With that name – Zinedine Zidane – that will always bring back fantastic memories for every Bianconeri fan.
A lucky few among you were able to pay tribute to the unforgettable Bianconeri superstar on two occasions: at the UNESCO Cup, of course, but also on 17 June 2001 – exactly thirteen years ago.
It was on that date that Zidane wore the shirt of the Vecchia Signora for the last time in a competitive match, and those who were present at the Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin will never be able to forget that final round of applause.
The match was Juventus v Atalanta. It was the last game of the season and the Bianconeri were giving it one final push in their attempt to reach league leaders Roma in the standings.
The love story between Zidane and Juventus could only end as a win (2-1), since that was just how it began, one day back in August of 1996 (a Coppa Italia match against Fidelis Andria).
Zizou arrived during Marcello Lippi's tenure and needed little time to settle in and start winning. In just his first season the Frenchman was able to lift an Intercontinental Cup, a European Super Cup and our 24th Scudetto (a must in the club’s centenary year).
It wasn’t just any old game in which he scored the first of his 31 goals: it was the Derby d'Italia against Inter on Sunday 20 October at the Stadio Delle Alpi. The goal came in the 17th minute: a dipping, pinpointed left-footer from outside the box that gave Pagliuca no chance.
The following season wasn't short on success either. Juve and Zidane won the Italian Super Cup and his appearances and goals increased, with 48 and 11 respectively. There was another league title as well, the second in a row, paving the way for the Ballon d'Or, one of the most prestigious awards a player can aspire to.
In the end, he would play 212 games with Juventus, scoring a total of 31 times and providing countless assists. Numbers that have earned the love of fans the world over.
But on that 17 June 2001, Zizou wasn’t the only player to turn out for the last time in the black and white stripes. The others bidding farewell to the Bianconeri in that game against Atalanta were Athirson, Darko Kovacevic, goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar after two seasons in Turin, and Filippo Inzaghi, a Juve scoring ace who arrived in 1997 and spent a total of four years, scoring 89 goals along the way.