The Frenchman has led the Bernabeu side to successive Champions League titles – a first in the modern era of the competition – but with Paris Saint-Germain looming in the last 16 of this season’s competition, Madrid find themselves fourth in La Liga, 19 points off the pace of Barca, albeit with a game in hand.
As such, Zidane has come under pressure, and while a 4-1 win over Valencia last weekend has eased that somewhat, Xavi retains terrific respect for him.
“Of course I admire Zidane because he was an extraordinary footballer," the Al Sadd midfielder told BeIN Sport Doha. “It was wonderful to watch him play.
“My pain has been to suffer him at Real Madrid. It's a real shame.
“Everyone has admired Zidane and continues to admire him. Not just as a player; he is a gentleman, a sensible, noble person, known by the entire world of football. He's an example to follow.”
Xavi even went as far to compare the 1998 World Cup winner with Lionel Messi due to their almost universal popularity due to the artistry they show on the field.
“Who wasn't a fan of Diego Maradona or isn't now a fan of Messi?” he asked. “They are magical players who have had a magic wand that told them they were going to be the best of their generation.
“Maradona, Messi, Pele, Johan Cruyff, Zidane, Alfredo Di Stefano remain in the memory of all football lovers. They have been the players to make a difference.”