"I'm sorry for Zidane, because I hold him in great esteem, and he knows that," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi - who bossed Zidane at Juventus - in his post-match press conference, echoing the thoughts of everyone present.
"He's a great player and I don't want to see him go. I told him before the start of the game to think over his decision to retire. It's a shame to end his career in this way."
The 69,000 in the Olympic Stadium and the millions around the world who watched the game will have the sight of Zidane's balding head hammering into Materazzi's chest indelibly etched into their archive of the Frenchman's defining moments.
But Lippi - a man who spent three seasons alongside Les Bleus' number 10 in Turin - should know better than most there is a beast which occasionally rears its hideous head and transforms the habitually placid and retiring Zidane.
Saudi Arabia captain Fuad Amin was the first to feel the wrath of 'Zizou,' a two-game ban for the Frenchman for stamping on his opponent neatly overshadowed by his two goals in the final against Brazil to claim a maiden World Cup in 1998.
And in 2001, Zidane headbutted Hamburg's Jochen Kientz just 29 minutes into a Champions League encounter - a headbutt that was seen all too brutally clearly in the German capital.
There is no doubt Marco Materazzi was goading Zidane, and the words - which neither Lippi nor French counterpart Raymond Domenech were able to disclose - were certainly not for the faint-hearted.
But like it or not, verbally insulting your opponent is a major factor in modern-day football and is something Zidane must have come across countless times on pitches around Europe.
His dismissal virtually ended France's chances of unlocking the Azzurri rearguard given the fundamental role Zidane plays in the 4-2-3-1 formation adopted by Domenech.
NOT A PANENKA, A ZIDANE
But up until his premature departure, France's best moments had rarely come through their star playmaker - aside from his magnificent, outrageously daring penalty.
The debate will rage over whether referee Horacio Elizondo was right to award the spot-kick, but we can be thankful he did to offer the viewing public the privilege of watching an artist at work.
The 'Panenka' should be renamed the 'Zidane' as having the audacity to do that in the World Cup final (the original was 'only' in the Euro 76 final) deserves long-standing recognition.
But otherwise, in an Italy-dominated first period, the ball was often in wide positions which severely limits Zidane's usefulness - at 34, it is not for his industry that he is going to make a difference.
HENRY THE HEIR
And in the second half of normal time he saw himself upstaged by Thierry Henry, the man who is now expected to take on the mantle of national saviour following Zidane's retirement.
There were still some mouth-watering touches though from the great man, particularly in dodging away from that most persistent of opponents, Gennaro Gattuso.
The pick of the bunch, coming on 104 minutes, was a soft-shoe shuffle which kept the ball out of Gattuso's reach before it was spread wide for Willy Sagnol to cross for Zidane himself to head powerfully goalwards and force Gigi Buffon into a flying stop.
It was a moment of sheer magic, the sort of genius everyone marvelled at after 'that' volley in the 2003 Champions League final, almost as decisive as when he headed those two goals into the Brazil net in Paris eight years ago.
A moment of magic to help ease the painful memory of a moment of madness.
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