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Gianfranco Zola
Zola at Lazio.JPG
Personal information
Full name Gianfranco Zola
Date of birth 5 July 1966 (1966-07-05) (age 43)
Place of birth Oliena, Italy
Height 1.69 m (5 ft 6+12 in)
Playing position Second Striker
Attacking midfielder
Club information
Current club West Ham United (Manager)
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1984–1986 Nuorese 31 (10)
1986–1989 Torres 88 (21)
1989–1993 Napoli 105 (32)
1993–1996 Parma 102 (49)
1996–2003 Chelsea 229 (59)
2003–2005 Cagliari 74 (22)
Total 629 (193)
National team
1991–1997 Italy 35 (10[1])
Teams managed
2008– West Ham United
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Gianfranco Zola, OBE, Ufficiale OMRI[2] (born 5 July 1966 in Oliena, Sardinia) is a retired Italian footballer and, since 11 September 2008, manager of English Premier League side West Ham United, having been assistant coach of the Italy national under-21 football team under Pierluigi Casiraghi.[3] He spent the first decade of his career playing in Italy, most notably with Napoli, alongside the legendary Argentinian Diego Maradona and Brazilian striker 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.[4]

He was capped 35 times for Italy.


Club career



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."[5] 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. However, coach Carlo Ancelotti came to see Zola as a "square peg" unable to fit into his rigid system.[6] Zola was played out of position and ultimately made available for transfer.


In November 1996, Zola joined Chelsea for £4.5 m 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 immediately following the death of much loved 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."[7] 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 VfB 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 goalkeeper 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.

"Gianfranco tries everything because he is a wizard and the wizard must try."
-Claudio Ranieri reflecting on Zola's back-heeled goal against Norwich in 2002.[8]

When Chelsea made their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League in 1999-00, 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 FC 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".[9] 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.[10] In 2005 Zola was voted into the Chelsea FC 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.

Gianfranco Zola appearing at Geneva Indoors tournament in 2009

In 2003 Gianfranco Zola was voted Chelsea's best ever player.

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[11] when Zola refused to renege on his verbal contract with Cagliari, although Zola himself will not confirm it.[12] 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.[13]

International career

Zola played for his country at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, making one appearance in the second round against Nigeria. After only a few minutes, the referee completely misjudged an ordinary tackle against an opponent defender, sending Zola off and forcing him to miss the two subsequent World Cup matches. He could still have played the Italy-Brazil final, if half-injured Roberto Baggio had been left out by coach Arrigo Sacchi, who instead decided to let Baggio play, with poor results.

He played in all three group games at Euro 96, 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.

Retirement from playing

In his playing career, Zola played 627 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 Hyundai A-League clubs (Australia's national league), including Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory, about a possible comeback,[14] but Zola quashed such rumours.[15] He did, however, play a charity match in Sydney in December 2006, appearing in both Marconi 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.[16]

Managerial career

Italy U21s

In 2006, Zola started his coaching career, being appointed as assistant to Italy national under-21 football team head coach and former Italy and Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi by the Italian Football Federation.[3] The duo, who had been teammates at Chelsea, led the azzurrini to gain a spot at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where they reached the quarter-finals before being defeated 3–2 by Belgium.

West Ham United

Gianfranco Zola & Liverpool FC manager Rafael Benítez at Boleyn Ground May 9, 2009

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.

Signing autographs after match at Boleyn Ground May 9, 2009

He was unveiled as club manager on 11 September despite not having the required UEFA A coaching licence. Zola, surprisingly for someone so closely associated with West Ham's cross-town rivals Chelsea, quickly gained the backing of the fans. Nevertheless, he still received applause from Chelsea fans when he came to Stamford Bridge as West Ham coach. After a shaky start Zola began to develop a side with a flair not seen in a West Ham side for some years.[17] He was also praised for integrating more youth products into the first team.[18] The likes of Junior Stanislas and Zavon Hines were given their debuts and 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 will keep him at Upton Park until 2013.[19]

At the end of his first season in charge at West Ham United (2008-2009) Gianfranco Zola guided the team to ninth in the Premier League, 2 points off qualifying for the Europa League.

Career statistics

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
1984-85 Nuorese Serie C2 7 1 7 1
1985-86 24 9 24 9
1986-87 Sassari Torres Serie C2 28 8 28 8
1987-88 Serie C1 26 2 26 2
1988-89 34 11 34 11
1989-90 Napoli Serie A 7 2 7 2
1990-91 31 6 31 6
1991-92 30 12 30 12
1992-93 37 12 37 12
1993-94 Parma Serie A 37 19 37 19
1994-95 32 19 32 19
1995-96 30 19 30 19
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1996-97 Chelsea Premier League 23 8 7 4 0 0 0 0 30 12
1997-98 27 8 1 0 4 0 8 4 40 12
1998-99 37 13 6 1 0 0 5 1 48 15
1999-00 33 4 5 1 0 0 15 3 53 8
2000-01 36 9 3 2 1 1 2 0 42 12
2001-02 35 3 6 1 5 0 4 1 50 5
2002-03 38 14 3 2 3 0 2 0 46 16
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
2003-04 Cagliari Serie B 21 11 22 11
2004-05 Serie A 23 10 23 10
Total Italy 370 141 370 141
England 229 59 24 11 13 1 31 9 297 80
Career Total 599 200 24 11 667|221

Manager Statistics

Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
West Ham United England 15 September 2008 Present &0000000000000071.00000071 &0000000000000021.00000021 &0000000000000019.00000019 &0000000000000031.00000031 &0000000000000029.58000029.58
As of 13 March 2010.[20]


Italy A.S.D. Torres Calcio
Italy S.S.C. Napoli
Italy Parma F.C.
England Chelsea F.C.
Italy Cagliari Calcio

International Playing Honours

Italy Italy National Football Team

Club Managerial Honours

England West Ham United F.C.
  • Bobby Moore Cup: shared 2008

Individual Playing Honours

England Chelsea F.C.
Italy Cagliari Calcio


  1. ^ "". 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Gentile makes way for Casiraghi". 2006-07-24. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  4. ^ "Zola Voted Greatest Ever Chelsea Player". 2003-01-15. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  5. ^ "Gianfranco Zola: The Ambassador". Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  6. ^ "Tactical switch". London: The Times. 2005-05-26.,,762-1624346,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  7. ^ "Gullit Raves Over World Class Strikes". 1997-02-23. Retrieved 2006-12-09. 
  8. ^ "Gianfranco Zola - A Football Legend Profile". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  9. ^ "Zola adds his touch of magic". The Guardian. 2002-01-17. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  10. ^ "Chelsea legend Zola awarded OBE". BBC. 2004-11-01. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  11. ^ Rich, Tim (2008), written at Dallas, "Gianfranco Zola: I'm not ready for Chelsea yet", Daily Telegraph (London), 2008-03-17,, retrieved 2008-04-30 
  12. ^ Viner, Brian (2008), "Gianfranco Zola: 'Will I come back to Chelsea as a coach? I think so'", The Independent (London), 2008-03-21,, retrieved 2008-04-30 
  13. ^ "Zola swans into Australia". 
  14. ^ "Zola linked to Aussie A-League". yahoo. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  15. ^ "Zola talks down A-League tilt". Fox Sports. 2006-12-25.,8659,20972330-23215,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  16. ^ "Shrewsbury reveal All-Star names". BBC. 2007-07-10. 
  17. ^ Paul Doyle talks to Gianfranco Zola and examines the Italian's transformation of West Ham United
  18. ^ "Zola to stay true to Hammers' youth system". 23 September 2008. Retrieved 7 November 2009. 
  19. ^ Gianfranco Zola committed to West Ham after signing new contract
  20. ^ Gianfranco Zola management career stats at Soccerbase

External links

Simple English

Gianfranco Zola
Personal information
Full name Gianfranco Zola
Date of birth 5 July 1966 (1966-07-05) (age 44)
Place of birth    Oliena, Sardinia
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Playing position Striker (retired)
Senior clubs
Years Club
Sassari Torres
National team
1991-1997 Italy
Teams managed
2008- West Ham United

Gianfranco Zola OBE (born 5 July 1966) is a former Italian football player, who is now the manager of West Ham United

As a footballer he played for Napoli, Parma, Chelsea and Cagliari He was renowned for his technique, skill and dribbling. In total, he played in 632 league games and scored 184 goals in his career. He became manager of West Ham on 11 September 2008, replacing Alan Curbishley, after he stopped working as Italy Under-21's manager.

Club career statistics


Club Performance League
SeasonClubLeague AppsGoals
1984/85NuoreseSerie C240
1986/87Sassari TorresSerie C2308
1987/88Serie C1242
1989/90NapoliSerie A182
1993/94ParmaSerie A3318
1996/97ChelseaPremier League238
2003/04CagliariSerie B4313
2004/05Serie A319
CountryItaly 403125
England 22959
Total 632184

International career statistics


Italy national team



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