I have an affinity with the Arabic world. I have it in my blood, via my parents. I’m very proud of being French, but also very proud of having these roots and this diversity.
Diversity is a great advantage for any family. Children who have parents of different nationalities speak different languages and learn from different cultures. My children will speak more than one language.
My father taught me everything, but most of all he taught me the value of respect. He came from Algeria to France and it’s difficult to adjust to a new culture, to find a job and prove yourself, so you have to do twice as much as the others to get their respect as well as respecting them. I will pass this on to my children.
I had a strict upbringing but he was a big guiding light and I tried to apply this in my career. Maybe a little too much.
I enjoyed playing on the street as a child and I enjoyed playing at the top. But when you become a professional, the higher you get in your career the less freshness and less game spirit you have. It becomes something different. Playing football becomes a job.
It’s Maradona’s choice if he wants to criticise FIFA [over allegations of corruption] but you have people in place who are entitled to judge what is wrong and it’s difficult to judge what is really going on. We should rely on the law and the experts.
The World Cup coming to Qatar is good for the whole Middle East. There are 400 million people here today, there will be 700 million in 2022 and it’s somewhere that has never had the World Cup.
Maybe one day I’ll become a manager, but there are always steps in life. There’s a long way to go because I don’t have the license so I can’t coach right now, but I want to take my time and then let’s see what comes up in the future. It’s certainly not an idea that I would disregard.
Courage is the thing that helps you achieve your ambition. Things go up, and then things go down and that’s when you need courage.
When I retired there were fewer top players. Now the circle is wider. Ronaldo and Messi are above the rest, but there are more of the very good players around now.
Barcelona is a team, Real Madrid is a club. Barca has a good team, but Real Madrid are the biggest club in the world. Simple as that.
Indoors on parquet, in trainers, you have lots more different possibilities to play with the ball. The outsole of your shoe is sticky and you can do lots of tricks you can’t do in studs. It’s more technical.
I’m a different man on the pitch than I am off it.
If you look at the fourteen red cards I had, twelve of them were a result of provocation. This isn’t justification, this isn’t an excuse, but my passion, temper and blood made me react.
In my life I’ve always tried to soften things with people. I have tried not to anger or to provoke. So when I’m provoked it has double the effect. It builds up. Then it explodes.
Being a father has given me a much wider scope on life. It isn’t just about teaching your children, it’s about what you can give. You come from an egotistical self-centred place to discover a new life where you’re giving your energy and everything you have to give to people around you and not yourself.
It’s harder to raise a child than it was to play football.
For Esquire Magazine.