French football legend Zinedine Zidane has confessed that he has found the adjustment to retirement difficult since he left behind the professional game, while hitting out at critics who have singled out Karim Benzema in the current national team.
The former Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid idol played his last game in the 2006 World Cup final, which ended in infamy when he was sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi during a match France would eventually lose on penalties. He currently acts as sporting director at Madrid, a position he has held since July 2011.
In a frank interview with Le Monde, however, 'Zizou' admitted that the happiest days of his life occurred with the ball at his feet.
"If you ask me if I am as happy in my current life as I was in my previous one, the answer is no. Of course I was happier on the pitch," he revealed. "It was my dream life and now I lead a totally different one. The happiness is therefore also different."
The Euro 2000 winner celebrates his 40th birthday on Saturday, the same day that Spain and France meet in the quarterfinal's of 2012's edition. Asked about the upcoming clash Zidane was reluctant to comment, but signaled that Spain had the edge on his own nation.
"[I see] Spain as the favorites, but anything can happen in a single game," he said.
Zidane made a total of 108 appearances for France, scoring 31 times. As well as helping to win Euro 2000, he was also instrumental in helping his country to their first ever World Cup triumph in 1998.