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Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola, OBE, Ufficiale OMRI (born 5 July 1966 in Oliena, Italy) is a retired Italian footballer and manager, who most recently managed West Ham United from 2008 to 2010, after having been assistant manager of the Italy U-21 under Pierluigi Casiraghi. He spent the first decade of his career playing in Italy, most notably with Napoli, alongside Diego Maradona and Careca, and at Parma, before moving to English side Chelsea, where he was voted Football Writers' Player of the Year in 1997 and Chelsea's greatest ever player. He was capped 35 times for Italy.
 

Gianfranco Zola 2009

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Gianfranco Zola in 2009

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Club career

Italy

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Zola signed his first professional contract with Sardinian team Nuorese in 1984. In 1986, he moved to Torres from Sassari, the oldest club in Sardinia, where he spent three seasons. In 1989, he signed for Napoli in Serie A. The young and talented Zola scored two goals as understudy to Diego Maradona as Napoli won the Serie A title in 1990. Maradona would prove to be a big influence on Zola's career. The two would spend hours practising free kicks together after training and Zola later said that "I learned everything from Diego. I used to spy on him every time he trained and learned how to curl a free-kick just like him." He helped Napoli to win the Supercoppa Italiana in 1991 and he made his debut for the Italian national side under coach Arrigo Sacchi in the same year, winning his first cap against Norway in November. In 1993, Zola left Napoli and joined fellow Serie A side Parma. He won the UEFA Cup with Parma and they were runners-up in Serie A and the Italian Cup in 1995. It was with the blue and yellow club that he cemented his reputation as a creative player. Ironically, coach Carlo Ancelotti came to see Zola as a "square peg" unable to fit into his rigid system. Zola was played out of position and ultimately made available for transfer and moved to Chelsea F.C.

Chelsea

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In November 1996, Zola joined Chelsea for £4.5 million as one of several continental players signed by Ruud Gullit and wore the number 25 jersey. Zola's debut against Tottenham Hotspur was the first game immediately following the death of Chelsea director Matthew Harding in a helicopter crash three days before. In his debut season he put in several notable performances and scored a series of memorable goals. In February 1997, after spiriting the ball around Manchester United's defence in the penalty area before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, he was described by United manager Alex Ferguson as a "clever little so-and-so." He was a key player in Chelsea's resurgence that season, helping them win the FA Cup with a 2–0 win over Middlesbrough at Wembley having scored four goals en route to the final, including a 25 yard curling shot against Liverpool as Chelsea came from 0–2 behind to win 4–2, and a "twisted blood" effort in the semi-final against Wimbledon, backheeling the ball and turning 180 degrees before slotting the ball into the net. At the end of the season he was voted FWA Player of the Year, the only player ever to win the accolade without playing a full season in the English league and the first Chelsea player to win it.

In 1997–98, he helped Chelsea win three more trophies, the League Cup, the Cup Winners' Cup and the Super Cup. An injury denied him a place in the starting line-up for the Cup Winners' Cup final against Stuttgart at the Råsunda Stadium in Stockholm, but he came on as a second-half substitute and scored the winning goal within 21 seconds. With only his second touch of the game, he struck a through ball from Dennis Wise past Wohlfahrt into the roof of the net to secure Chelsea's third major trophy in a year and the second European trophy in the club's history. In the same season, Zola hit his first professional hat-trick, in a 4–0 victory over Derby County at Stamford Bridge in November 1997.

When Chelsea made their first appearance in the Champions League in 1999–2000, Zola was a key player throughout, although he found his chances in the league more limited, owing to manager Gianluca Vialli's squad rotation policy. Zola scored three goals in Chelsea's run to the quarter-finals, including a curling free kick against Barcelona, and again won the FA Cup with the club, with his free-kick in the final against Aston Villa setting up Roberto Di Matteo's winner. His later years with Chelsea saw his appearances restricted by the new strike pairing of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eiður Guðjohnsen, but in Hasselbaink's first season at Stamford Bridge, Zola formed a good partnership with him, scoring 32 league goals between them, (Zola scoring 9 and Hasselbaink hauled 23). It was the 2001–02 season that Zola's starting chances became limited, after a summer when Claudio Ranieri showed to door to many of Chelsea's ageing stars such as club captain Dennis Wise, goalscoring midfielder Gustavo Poyet and French defender Frank Leboeuf, Zola was limited to infrequent starts and many substitute appearances due to Ranieri's new policy of decreasing the average age of the Chelsea squad, preferring to play the gifted Icelandic youngster Gudjohnsen with Hasselbiank, though Zola did score with a backheeled effort in mid-air in an FA Cup tie against Norwich City, a goal manager Claudio Ranieri described as "fantasy, magic". In 2002–03, his final season with Chelsea, he enjoyed a renaissance, scoring 16 goals, his highest seasonal tally for Chelsea, and was voted the club's player of the year after helping Chelsea qualify for the Champions League.

Zola scored his final goal for Chelsea, a lob from outside the penalty area against Everton, on Easter Monday 2003, and made his final competitive appearance for the club on the final day of the season with a 20-minute cameo against Liverpool, beating four Liverpool players during a fantastic dribble late on in the match, gaining applause from both sets of fans. This would become the final class moment of his Chelsea career. He played in a total of 312 games for Chelsea and scored 80 goals. In early 2003, Zola was voted as the best ever Chelsea player by Chelsea's fans. In November 2004, he was awarded an OBE – Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire in a special ceremony in Rome. In 2005, Zola was voted into the Chelsea F.C. Centenary Eleven, occupying one of the two forward roles. Whilst the club has not officially withdrawn Zola's number 25 shirt from circulation, no other player has held the squad number since his departure.

Return to Italy

In the summer of 2003, amid rumours of an impending takeover at Chelsea, Zola left Stamford Bridge to join Cagliari, the most important club from his native Sardinia. Within a week Chelsea was acquired by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. It was reported that Abramovich tried to buy the entire Cagliari club when Zola refused to renege on his verbal contract with Cagliari, although Zola himself will not confirm it. Zola subsequently led Cagliari to promotion to the Italian Serie A. Then he renewed his contract for Cagliari Calcio for one more year. He retired in June 2005, after ending his career in appropriate style with a double against Juventus in his last ever professional game. His number 10 Cagliari jersey was withdrawn in his honour for the season after he left but was worn in the 2006–07 season by Andrea Capone.

International career

Zola made his debut for Italy on 13 November 1991, in a Euro 1992 qualifier against Norway, which ended 1–1. He appeared at the 1994 World Cup, making one appearance in the second round against Nigeria. After only a few minutes, Zola was sent off, after 'fouling' Augustine Eguavoen, which forced him to miss the two subsequent World Cup matches. He did not regain his place in the side after this suspension.

His first two goals came on 25 March 1995, in a 4–1 in a Euro 1996 qualifier against Estonia. He also played in all three group games at Euro 1996, and missed a penalty against Germany as Italy surprisingly crashed out in the first round. He scored the only goal of the game in a World Cup qualifying match against England at Wembley in February 1997, and won his final cap for Italy in the return fixture against England in Rome in October 1997. He retired from international play after he was not called up for the 1998 World Cup, finishing with 35 total caps and ten goals.

Commentary career

In his playing career, Zola played 628 games and scored 193 goals. Despite speculation he would play on in the 2005–06 season, Zola decided to leave the game just a week before he turned 39, and took a job as an Italian football pundit. Rumours were circulating within Australia that Zola was being chased by several A-League clubs, including Sydney, Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory, about a possible comeback, but Zola quashed such rumours. He did, however, play a charity match in Sydney in December 2006, appearing in both Marconi Stallions and APIA colours. Zola also played against Shrewsbury Town for A-line Allstars on 14 July 2007 as part of a kit sponsorship deal between Shrewsbury Town and A-line. It was the first match ever played at the New Meadow stadium; A-line make Zola's boots.

Managerial career

Italy U21

In 2006, Zola started his coaching career, being appointed as assistant manager to Italy U-21 manager and Pierluigi Casiraghi by the Italian Football Federation. The duo led the azzurrini to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where they reached the quarter-finals before being defeated 3–2 by Belgium U-21.

West Ham United

On 9 September 2008, Zola agreed a three-year contract to manage West Ham United, replacing Alan Curbishley, who resigned following differences with the board.

He was unveiled as manager on 11 September, despite not having the required UEFA A managing licence. Zola, surprisingly for someone closely associated with West Ham's cross-town rivals Chelsea, quickly gained the backing of the fans. Nevertheless, he received applause from Chelsea fans whenever he returned to Stamford Bridge as West Ham manager. After a shaky start Zola began to develop a side with a flair not seen in a West Ham side for some years. He was also praised for integrating more youth products into the first team. The likes of Junior Stanislas and Zavon Hines were given their debuts. The duo and first team youngsters Jack Collison and James Tomkins all scored their first goals for the club. In April 2009, Zola signed a contract that could have kept him at Upton Park until 2013. West Ham struggled in the 2009–10 season. Zola's position as manager was put in doubt when he revealed he had not been consulted over a bid for West Bromwich Albion player Graham Dorrans and by chairman David Sullivan's announcement that the entire squad was for sale except for midfielder Scott Parker. West Ham finished in 17th place, only five points above the relegation places.

On 11 May 2010, two days after the end of the 2009–10 season, West Ham announced the termination of Zola's contract with immediate effect. Avram Grant was announced as his successor on 3 June 2010, and a week later it was announced that the club had reached a compensation settlement with Zola.

Honours

Club

Torres

  • Serie C2 (1): 1986-87

Napoli

  • Serie A (1): 1989-90
  • Supercoppa Italiana (1): 1990

Parma

  • UEFA Cup (1): 1994-95
  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 1993

Chelsea

  • FA Cup (2): 1996–97, 1999–00
  • FA Charity Shield (1): 2000
  • Football League Cup (1): 1997–98
  • UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1): 1997-98
  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 1998
Individual
  • Premier League Player of the Month (2): December 1996, October 2002
  • FWA Footballer of the Year (1): 1997
  • Chelsea Player of the Year (2): 1999, 2003
  • Retired numbers in association football Chelsea No. 25: 2003 (unofficial)
  • Senatore Salvatore Mannironi: 2004
  • Order of the British Empire: 2004
  • Chelsea Centenary XI: 2005
  • English Football Hall of Fame: 2006

References and Notes

Wiki Source

Comments

he is a total legend

 what a player. he was amazing better than eto'o and shevchenko


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