zola-3

Gianfranco Zola 50, born in Oliena Sardinia,Italy. He signed his first professional contract with Nuorese in 1984.

Zola came to prominence with Napoli after signing in 1989 as an understudy to Diego Maradona.

Zola was excited by the transfer, and he developed an important friendship with Maradona, who commented “Finally they have bought someone shorter than me” Maradona would prove to be a big influence on Zola’s career. The two would spend hours practicing 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.”  Zola scored his first goal for Napoli against Atalanta. He won the Serie A title (89/90) and supercoppa italiana in 1990 with Napoli.

In 1993, Zola joined Parma due to Napoli financial misfortunes and helped Parma win the UEFA Super Cup in 1993 and he also won the UEFA cup in 1995. His reputation began to soar and Italy became aware of his talent, dribbling and ball control abilities.

Zola with his Chelsea shirt
Zola with his Chelsea shirt

In November 1996, Zola joined Chelsea for £4.5 million as one of several continental players signed by Ruud Gullit then Chelsea manager and was assigned the number 25 jersey. He made his debut in a 1–1 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. In his debut season, he demonstrated his skill and talent, and put in several notable performances, scoring a series of memorable goals.

It was with Chelsea that he gained his legendary status. He lit up the premier league with his dazzling performances. In one of such occasions, Peter Schmeichel was ball watching as he schooled the entire Manchester United defense; Sir Alex Ferguson described him as a “clever little so-and-so.”

Zola scored a total of eighty goals for Chelsea in all competition and fifty-nine of those goals were in the premier league. He won six trophies with Chelsea including two FA Cups.

He left on the brinks of Roman Abramovich takeover of Chelsea in the summer of 2003 and joined his hometown club Cagliari and helped them to achieve promotion that year. He retired in the summer of 2005 when the ovation was high.

Today, Gianfranco Zola is new manager of Birmingham City. He had managed clubs like West Ham United, Watford, Al-Arabi before been appointed on December 14, 2016 as the manager of Birmingham City.