Chelsea confirmed on Wednesday that club icon Gianfranco Zola will assist new manager Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.
The pint-sized Italian, who established himself as a Premier League legend during seven fruitful years with the Blues, returns to coaching after resigning as Birmingham City manager in April 2017. Before his stint in the West Midlands, he oversaw West Ham United, Watford, Cagliari, Qatari club Al-Arabi, and also worked within Italy’s youth programme.
“For me it is an amazing thing,” Zola said of his appointment. “I am very willing to work hard because it is going to be a difficult challenge but I am pleased to be here, and to work hard with Maurizio to be successful. It would be great to be successful with Maurizio and for the club and I will give my best, as I did in the past as a player, so I will give my best in my new position.
“I am very much looking forward to the challenge in general. I would love us to start well and we are all very excited to start this new adventure.”
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Zola was plucked from Parma in 1996, and he soon established himself as a terrace favourite with his adventurous, intricate dribbling and wide smile. His travelling with the ball could be reminiscent of Diego Maradona, a player for whom a young Zola deputised during Napoli’s Scudetto-winning campaign in 1990.
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
He played in 312 outings for Chelsea before departing for Cagliari – a team hailing from Zola’s native Sardinia.
His highlights with the Blues include a backheel to tee up Eddie Newton in the 1997 FA Cup final, his match-winning goal to capture the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, and his perfect backheel volley against Norwich City in 2002. He was named the club’s Player of the Year twice while collecting five major pieces of silverware overall.
Zola was on Wednesday’s flight destined for Perth, Australia. The capital club plays against Perth Glory on Monday and then crams in meetings with Inter Milan, Arsenal, Manchester City in the Community Shield, and Olympique Lyonnais before its first match of the Premier League season against Huddersfield Town on August 11.