French midfield pair Zinedine Zidane and Claude Makelele have both announced their return to the international fold.
EURO 2004™ exit
The pair retired last year in the wake of Les Bleus' UEFA EURO 2004™ quarter-final defeat by eventual winners Greece. Real Madrid CF playmaker Zidane, now 33, quit just weeks later, to apparently end a ten-year career seven caps short of his century. But the 1998 FIFA World Cup final hero and UEFA EURO 2000™ winner could still make that milestone, following recent talks with the French coach.
"Raymond Domenech came to see me two or three times in Madrid and we have discussed the possibility that Makelele and I might return to the side," Zidane said on his personal website. "Playing for the French national team is one of the most important aspects of my life and that is why I have decided to come back - I want to help the team."
Just a year younger, Chelsea FC's Makelele made one further appearance, in the 2006 World Cup qualifier against Israel, before he too put an end to a successful international career that had brought World Cup and UEFA European Championship goal medals. He followed not only Zidane, but also Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram and Bixente Lizarazu into international retirement and France have experience a difficult transitional period and are now struggling to book a place in next summer's World Cup.
'Better than ever'
A succession of draws has left them fourth in Group 4, three points adrift of section leaders the Republic of Ireland and Domenech is delighted he can now call upon the experience of the midfield pair. "I am very happy that the French team can once again select Zidane and Makelele, very talented players who are playing better than ever for their clubs," he said.
"I am particularly happy to say that, several weeks ahead of our decisive qualifiers, the players who ended their international careers last summer have shown a desire to return to the team." Zidane and Makelele could both return for the friendly against Ivory Coast on 17 August before the World Cup qualifier against Faroe Islands in Lens on 3 September.
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