Now, Europe’s greatest player of the past half century - yes, greater than Michel Platini - must adjust his touch to bringing down rogue passes in training and flicking the ball back from the sideline as Real Madrid coach.
After attending his first press conference in a crisp suit and dismissing journalists with the precision of a politician, Zidane looked the part.
Yet, with only 18 months managerial experience, including limited success at Castilla, Real Madrid’s second team, Zizou has stepped into the lion's den with little more than his iconic name to use as armour against four ferocious beasts.
1. Florentino Perez
Madrid’s decision to off-load Rafa Benitez and appoint their legendary French midfielder was as rash as the former's famous headbutt, as bold as the spot at the top of his cranium and as merciless as we have all come to expect of club president Perez.
Fifteen managers have passed through the turnstiles at the Santiago Bernabeu since 2003 with the Los Blancos hierarchy striving to achieve complete perfection through a mixture of ignorance, immaturity, blank cheques, arrogance and luck.
Perez will expect Zidane to win the UEFA Champions League trophy, make haste in overtaking Barcelona at the top of La Liga, win a Nobel Prize and go about ending world hunger with any outstanding time in lieu.
Benitez’s tenure at Madrid effectively ran its cause when his side were humiliated 4-0 at home by Barcelona in late November. The difference in class was, and still is, huge, especially when you remember Lionel Messi started on the bench that evening.
Zidane has three months before the clasico swings around again but there is no doubt the fixture is already heavily scribbled into the Frenchman’s top 12 Bouillabaisse stews calendar.
With two points separating Spain’s greatest rivals, a loss could prove as costly as Cristiano Ronaldo’s wet-look gel, while a win would leave Zidane in a strong position to see out the remaining seven league games.
The hard work has already begun.
3. The Madridistas
When a legendary player takes the reins at his former club it dips into the football fan’s sense of nostalgia. And, whatever the initial results, the image of an icon taking over the throne often eases pressure. Things are a little different at Madrid.
The mentality of winning, and winning with style, overshadows all. It is engrained into the club's culture and values and consequently reflected in the fans.
The Madridistas will be passionate, ruthless, loyal, quick to judge, highly critical and full of praise all at the same time. The fans are unique and something no manager can be prepared for. Ask Benitez.
4. Bale and Ronaldo
Alex Ferguson once said: "Give me 10 pieces of wood and Zinedine Zidane, and I will win the Champions League." Fortunately for Zizou, he has more than 10 pieces of wood at his disposal. In fact, he has a squad worth in excess of $1 billion.
Amounting for the largest portion of Madrid’s squad wealth is the world's most expensive player Gareth Bale and his mate, who looks like he secretly begrudges the fact he is second on the list, Ronaldo.
Barca’s Neymar and Suarez look inseparable both on and off the pitch with a telepathic-like knowledge of everything from each other's movement to favourite movie snack.
The Welshman and his Portugese buddy are rigid and awkward. Can’t see them splitting a cab.
Bale was a big supporter of Benitez and Zidane has already declared how important the Wales star is as he looks to keep the Manchester United target happy. With the January transfer market open, speculation continues linking Ronaldo with a move to Paris Saint-Germain at season's end.
So what would be the most damaging for Zidane and the future of Madrid. To lose Bale? To lose Ronaldo? Or to keep both?