The great entertainer bowed out last night and by way of a perfect tribute Real Madrid and Villarreal served up one of the most entertaining matches of the season. Zinedine Zidane played his last ever game at the Bernabeu after five seasons and played his part in a breathtaking six-goal thriller.
The man, who even the Real Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano refers to as "the Maestro" played in front of his adoring home fans for the last time as Real pushed to secure second place behind Barcelona in La Liga.
Things started according to script when on 21 minutes Julio Baptista put Real Madrid ahead. Robinho crossed from the left, Raul's cushion header tee-ed up the Brazilian and smashed his shot into the roof of the net.
The crowd were willing Zidane to score, even voicing their disapproval at David Beckham when he lined up to take a free-kick in potential Zidane territory.
But Villarreal levelled against the run of play on the half hour. Michel Salgado failed to clear a corner heading it against Alvaro Mejia who turned the ball past his own keeper.
Eight minutes later things had gone from bad to worse for the home side when Diego Forlan turned party pooper, smashing a 25-yard shot past Casillas to put Villarreal in front. The former Manchester United striker almost made it three hitting the post just before half-time.
After the break came the moment everyone inside the Bernabeu had been waiting for - a goal from Zidane. It wasn't the Frenchman's best, but with a tame header back across goal from a Beckham cross he had 82,000 in raptures.
Delirium turned to dread minutes later though when defender Sergio Ramos was sent off for blocking a shot with his hand and Forlan scored his second and Villarreal's third from the spot.
As Zidane has finished his career at Real with three trophyless seasons it would have been harsh if he'd also bailed out with a defeat, and from another perfect Beckham cross Baptista earned Real a point.
There was still time for Riquelme to hit a post before the referee blew for time and Zidane, who had been substituted five minutes from time, came back onto the pitch to take more deserved applause the fans.
They had earlier held up a banner that read: "After a season of you lot having your holidays now it's our turn." No such disdain for the Maestro ... just respect and appreciation.
Real Madrid (4-1-4-1): Casillas; Salgado, Sergio Ramos, Mejia, Roberto Carlos; Pablo Garcia; Beckham, Baptista, Zidane, Robinho; Raul. Substitutes: Cicinho, Diogo, Cassano, Soldado, Guti.
Villarreal (4-4-2): Barbosa; Javi Venta, Alvarez, Pena, Arruabarrena; Riquelme, Senna, Tacchinardi, Jose Mari; Forlan, G Franco. Substitutes: Viera, Josemi, Josico, Guayre, Sorin, Cesar Arzo, Roger, Calleja.Reuse content