In the time between Zinedine Zidane
playing his last game for Real Madrid
in 2006 and becoming Carlo Ancelotti's assistant in 2013 he never really left the club completely.
His passion for watching football and his attention to the youth game as his own four sons began their journey through their various age-groups gave him a vast knowledge of the best emerging young talents. And whenever he thought he had spotted someone special, he would contact Real Madrid.
It happened in 2010 with Raphael Varane who he ended up calling to persuade to join Madrid and not Manchester United
. And it happened again the same year with Eden Hazard
2x Premier League titles, 1x FA Cup, 1x League Cup, 1x Ligue 1 title, 1x French Cup, 1x Europa League title
Watching the young Belgian at Lille, Zidane was left in no doubt that the number 26 was destined for great things. He alerted Madrid to the talent in 2010 when the player was still only 19. And two years later when the time came for Lille to sell Hazard – by now wearing number 10 and aged 21 – Zidane urged president Florentino Perez to bring him to the Bernabeu.
Madrid, with Jose Mourinho at the helm, signed Luka Modric instead and Zidane watched one of his favourite players move to London.
This was already a mutual appreciation society and Hazard had been a fan of Zidane long before the Madrid and France legend had noticed the Belgian.
World Cups mark all young fans and Eden was seven when Zidane was winning the tournament for France in 1998.
When the tournament kicked-off his loyalties were split between his own country and that of his hero but with Belgium out by the group stage failing to win a single game it was a small step to adopting the host nation.
He wore Zidane's France number 10 shirt as the now Real Madrid coach had his finest hour. He would end up leaving Belgium to play in France signing for Lille, debuting for them while only 16.
In 2011 he led them to the double and was named best player in France. Zidane's original tip-off to Madrid the previous year resonated with Perez but not enough that he moved to bring the youngster to Spain. It was still very much the era when Madrid felt all-powerful in the transfer market, able to wait for a young talent to develop elsewhere before they staked a fortune on his future.
The stars were now getting closer together but they still were not quite aligned. By 2016 Rafa Benitez was fired by Real Madrid and Zidane was given the keys to front door – no more, just an occasionally listened to adviser, no more a mere cog in Jose Mourinho's backroom staff, no more just Ancelotti's assistant hugging him on the touchline as they won the Champions League in 2014, no more the B-team coach trying to bring through young players while competing in the third tier in Spain's 'Segunda B'; he was now the main man.
He asked the club to sign Hazard again. It was the start of the 2016-17 season and he told Perez he wanted only one player. The petition was shelved – filed under 'maybe next season. The club had signed Marco Asensio instead and with Isco and James Rodriguez already in the squad Zidane had to take another rebuttal with reluctant acceptance.
The following season Real Madrid did not need Zidane to tell them about Hazard. He had second top scored behind Diego Costa as Chelsea won the league. But the price was now high. They considered paying it but were sidetracked by the emergence of Kylian Mbappe who they believed they could sign for 180m euros.
When the Mbappe deal collapsed because Paris Saint Germain came along with more money for Monaco they never returned to Hazard who had by this time dropped enough hints that he wanted to move to Real Madrid – risking his relationship with Chelsea supporters in the process.
Last season Madrid won the Champions League for the third consecutive time but despite becoming the first coach to achieve such a feat Zidane was still not trusted with the remit of planning the next season.
Again he wanted Hazard, again he would be turned down. He quit and Hazard stayed at Chelsea.
Last week when Real Madrid knocked on Zidane's door and asked him to comeback and save the club from destroying itself in a tornado of in-fighting in the dressing room and a failure to compete on the pitch, he originally turned them down.
When they went back to him at the weekend with more 'concessions' one of the key concessions appears to have been the signing of the kid he first saw aged-19 at Lille.
And Hazard – 20 years on from the posters on the wall and the France number 10 shirt – is as keen as ever to answer the call. It will cost Real Madrid a lot more than it would have done in 2010 – as much as 100m euros more – but they can no longer say not to Zidane and Hazard who once said: 'Zidane has always been my idol' it seems still wants to say yes.