Football Wiki
Football Wiki
Gianfranco Zola
- G. Zola 001.png
Personal information
Full name Gianfranco Zola
Date of birth 5 July 1966 (1966-07-05) (age 55)
Place of birth    Oliena, Flag of Italy Italy
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Playing position Forward
Youth clubs
1980-1983 Flag of Italy Corrasi Oliena
Senior clubs
Years Club App (Gls)
Flag of Italy Nuorese
Flag of Italy Torres
Flag of Italy Napoli
Flag of Italy Parma
Flag of England Chelsea
Flag of Italy Cagliari
031 0(10)
088 0(21)
105 0(32)
102 0(49)
229 0(59)
074 0(22)
629 (193)   
National team
1991–1997 Flag of Italy Italy 035 0(10)
Teams managed
Flag of England West Ham United
Flag of England Watford
Flag of Italy Cagliari
Flag of Qatar Al-Arabi
Flag of England Birmingham City

Gianfranco Zola, OBE, Ufficiale OMRI (born 5 July 1966) is an Italian former footballer, who played predominantly as a forward. After retirement from playing he became a manager, most recently at Cagliari.

He spent the first decade of his playing career playing in Italy, most notably with Napoli, alongside Diego Maradona and Careca, where he was able to win the Serie A title, and at Parma, where he won the Italian Supercup and the UEFA Cup. He later moved to English side Chelsea, where he was voted the Football Writers' Player of the Year in the 1996–97 season. During his time at the club, he won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the UEFA Supercup, two FA Cups, the League Cup, and the Community Shield. In 2003 he was voted Chelsea's greatest player ever. He was capped 35 times for Italy from his debut in 1991, appearing at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where Italy finished in second place, and Euro 96.

During his playing career, Zola was primarily used as a supporting striker or as a playmaking attacking midfielder, also being deployed as a winger or as a striker on occasion. A creative and technical player, Zola was renowned for his ball control, his skilful dribbling ability, vision, and passing ability, as well as his eye for goal. His small stature gave him good balance and allowed him to be extremely quick and agile, which, along with his acceleration and ball skills, enabled him to change direction with the ball very quickly in tight spaces, and allowed him to beat defenders in one on one situations. Zola was also a penalty kick and set piece specialist, who was particularly renowned for his accuracy at bending direct free-kicks. Zola was given the nickname "Magic box" whilst playing at Chelsea. Zola is regarded as one of the best Italian creative forwards of his generation, and as one of the best players in Premier League history.

After a stint with Italy Under-21, Zola began his club managerial career with West Ham United of the Premier League in 2008 in the Premier League, before being sacked in 2010. He was manager of Watford from July 2012 until he announced his resignation on 16 December 2013. From December 2014 to March 2015 he managed Cagliari in Serie A.

Club career


Zola began his career with Nuorese in 1984. Two years later, he moved to Sassari to play with Torres. After five seasons in the Serie C, Napoli bought him for 2 billion Lire. At Napoli, Zola acted as the understudy for Diego Maradona, and won his only league title in 1990. Zola's first goal came against Atalanta, and he scored a very important goal against Genoa to keep Napoli's two point lead over Milan intact. Zola cited Maradona as his greatest influence, with the two practicing free kicks for hours after training. According to Zola, he "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 picked up another winner's medal as Napoli also won the Supercoppa Italiana in the same season. During the 1990-91 season, Zola partnered with Careca to compensate for Maradona's absence following a drug ban. When Maradona left, new manager Claudio Ranieri awarded Zola the number 10 shirt. In 105 appearances with Napoli, Zola scored 32 goals. In 1993, Zola joined Parma for 13 billion Lire, leading to accusations of treachery by the Napoli fans. Zola revealed that Napoli had also sold other key players, such as Thern, Fonseca, and Ferrara, to alleviate the club's financial situation. In the 1994-95 season, Zola scored 19 goals for Parma as they finished third, behind Lazio and Juventus. With Parma, Zola won the 1993 UEFA Supercup and the 1995 UEFA Cup, and reached the finals of the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the 1995 Italian Cup, and the 1995 Supercoppa Italiana. During his time in the blue and yellow shirt, Zola earned his reputation as one of the most creative Italian footballers, along with Alessandro Del Piero and Roberto Baggio. During the 1995-96 season, the arrival of Hristo Stoichkov caused some friction, as he played in the same position as Zola, thus forcing the Italian out of the starting lineup. In 1996, when new manager Carlo Ancelotti preferred Crespo and Chiesa up-front in his 4-4-2 formation, Zola often found himself playing out of position in left midfield. Disillusioned, he left Parma in November. In total, Zola scored 49 goals in 102 appearances for Parma.


Ruud Gullit signed Zola in November of that year for 4.5 million pounds. He was given the number 25 jersey and debuted in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Zola instantly made an impact on the squad, impressing many with his talent and scoring several noteworthy goals. Alex Ferguson called him a "clever little so-and-so" after he scored a brilliant individual goal against Manchester United in February 1997. During the 1996-97 season, Zola was instrumental in Chelsea's 2-0 win against Middlesbrough in the F.A. Cup. He scored four goals during Chelsea's route to the final, including a 25 yard curler against Liverpool and a skillful individual goal against Wimbledon in the semi-final. At the end of the season, he was named the FWA Player of the Year, becoming the only player to do so without playing a full season and the first Chelsea player. In the 1997-98 season, Zola helped Chelsea to the League Cup, the Cup Winners' Cup, and the Super Cup. Zola memorably came on as a substitute in the Cup Winners' Cup final against Stuttgart and scored thirty seconds later (with his second touch). He also managed his first ever hat-trick in a 4-0 win against 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 the campaign, although he found his chances in the Premier League more limited, owing to manager Gianluca Vialli's squad rotation policy. Zola scored three goals in Chelsea's run to the Champions League quarter-finals, including a curling free kick against Barcelona, and he 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. During the 2000-01 Premier League season, Zola managed 9 league goals.

In the 2001–02 season, Zola's starting chances became limited, after a summer when Claudio Ranieri showed the door to many of Chelsea's ageing stars such as club captain Dennis Wise, goalscoring midfielder Gustavo Poyet and French defender Frank Leboeuf, scoring only 3 goals. 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 Hasselbaink. Zola did draw attention, however, for his dominant performance when he scored with a notable backheeled effort in mid-air from a corner-kick, in an FA Cup tie against Norwich City on the 16th January 2002. Manager Claudio Ranieri described the goal 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, scoring 59 goals in 229 Premier League appearances. He subsequently decided to return to Italy during the following season.

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. No other Chelsea player has held Zola's number 25 shirt since his departure, prompting some to report that the squad number has been retired. Despite such reports, the club has not officially withdrawn it from circulation. In 2007 Zola was also voted by the Sun one of the top ten best foreign "artistic" players in Premier League history, coming in second place, behind George Best

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, under manager Arrigo Sacchi, at the age of 25, in a Euro 1992 qualifier against Norway, which ended 1–1. He appeared at the 1994 World Cup, making one substitute appearance in the second round knock-out match against Nigeria. After only twelve minutes, Zola was controversially sent off, after 'fouling' Augustine Eguavoen, which forced him to miss the two subsequent World Cup matches. Although Italy managed to reach the World Cup final, Zola did not regain his place in the side after this suspension. His first two goals came on 25 March 1995, in a 4–1 win, in a Euro 1996 qualifier against Estonia in Salerno.

Zola was called up for Euro 1996, and he played in all three group games at the tournament. He notably missed a potential match-winning penalty in a 0-0 draw against eventual champions Germany as Italy surprisingly crashed out in the first round; the win would have allowed Italy to progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament. He scored the only goal of the game in an historic 1-0 victory over England in a 1998 World Cup qualifying match at Wembley, on the 12th February 1997. He won his final cap for Italy in the return fixture against England in Rome on the 11th October 1997, which ended in a draw. He retired from international play after he was not called up for the 1998 World Cup by manager Cesare Maldini, who had selected Del Piero and Roberto Baggio in his role. Zola finished his international career with a total of 35 caps and ten goals.

Managerial career

Italy U21

In 2006, Zola started his coaching career, being appointed as assistant manager to Italy U21 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 7 September 2008, it was reported that Zola had been interviewed in Rome for the vacant manager's position at West Ham United and had "impressed the Club's representatives" at the interview. Two days later, he 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.

Zola also received praise 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 during his tenure. 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.


Zola was strongly linked with the managerial position at Watford in 2012, following the club's takeover by Udinese and Granada owner Giampaolo Pozzo. He was confirmed as Watford manager on 7 July, signing a two-year contract.

In his first season, Zola led Watford to 3rd place and a play-off position, which then saw them progress to the final at Wembley. There, they lost 1-0 to 5th place side Crystal Palace after extra-time. On 16 December 2013, Zola resigned as Watford manager. At the time of his resignation, Watford were 13th in the league, had not won since October 2013 and had lost their last five home games.


On 24 December 2014, Zola was appointed as the new manager of Cagliari following Zdeněk Zeman's dismissal. In his first match in charge, on 6 January 2015, Cagliari lost 0–5 at Palermo with Daniele Conti being sent off in the first half, the result keeping the club in the relegation zone. Two days later he completed his first transfer as manager of the club, taking centre-back Alejandro González on loan from fellow Serie A club Hellas Verona. Zola won his first game on 11 January 2015, a 2–1 win over Cesena.




External links

West Ham United Football Club - Managers

King (1901–32) • Paynter (1932–50) • Fenton (1950–61) • Greenwood (1961–74) • Lyall (1974–1989) • Macari (1989–90) • Boyce (1990c) • Bonds (1990–94) • Redknapp (1994–2001) • Roeder (2001–03) • Brooking (2003c) • Pardew (2003–06) • Curbishley (2006–08) • Keen (2008c) • Zola (2008–10) • Grant (2010–11) • Keen (2011c) • Allardyce (2011–15) • Bilić (2015–17) • Moyes (2017–18) • Pellegrini (2018–19) • Moyes (2019–)

Watford Football Club - Managers

Goodall (1903–10) • Kent (1910–26) • Pagnam (1926–29) • McBain (1929–37) • Findlay (1938–47) • Bray (1947–48) • Hapgood (1948–50) • Gray (1950–51) • Green (1951–52) • Goulden (1952–55) • Paton (1955–56) • Goulden (1956) • McBain (1956–59) • Burgess (1959–63) • McGarry (1963–64) • Furphy (1964–71) • Kirby (1971–73) • Keen (1973–77) • Taylor (1977–87) • Bassett (1987–88) • Harrison (1988–90) • Lee (1990) • Perryman (1990–93) • Roeder (1993–96) • Taylor (1996) • Jackett (1996–97) • Taylor (1997–2001) • Vialli (2001–02) • Lewington (2002–05) • Boothroyd (2005–08) • Mackay (2008) • Rodgers (2008–09) • Mackay (2009–11) • Dyche (2011–12) • Zola (2012–13) • Sannino (2013–14) • Garcia (2014) • McKinlay (2014) • Jokanović (2014–15) • Flores (2015–16) • Mazzari (2016–17) • Silva (2017–18) • Gracia (2018–19) • Sánchez Flores (2019) • Pearson (2019–20) • Ivić (2020) •

Template:Cagliari Calcio managers Template:Al Arabi SC (Qatar) managers

Birmingham City Football Club - Managers

Jones (1892–1908) · Watson (1908–10) · McRoberts (1910–15) · Richards (1915–23) · Beer (1923–27) · Harvey (1927–28) · Knighton (1928–33) · Liddell (1933–39) · Camkin (1939–44) · Goodier (1944–45) · Storer (1945–49) · Brocklebank (1949–54) · Turner (1954–58) · Turner and Beasley (1958) · Beasley (1958–60) · Merrick (1960–64) · Mallett (1964–65) · Cullis (1965–70) · Goodwin (1970–75) · Bell (1975–77) · Ramsey (1977–78) · Smith (1978–82) · Saunders (1982–86) · Bond (1986–87) · Pendrey (1987–89) · Mackay (1989–91) · Macari (1991) · Cooper (1991–93) · Fry (1993–96) · Francis (1996–2001) · Bruce (2001–07) · McLeish (2007–11) · Hughton (2011–12) · Clark (2012–14) · Rowett (2014–16) · Zola (2016–17) · Redknapp (2017) · Cotterill (2017–18) · Monk (2018–19) · Clotet (2019–20) · Karanka (2020–21) · Bowyer (2021–)

Italy national football team crest.svg
Flag of Italy Italy

Template:Italy squad (1994 FIFA World Cup)

Italy – UEFA Euro 1996

1. Peruzzi 2. Apolloni 3. Maldini 4. Carboni 5. Costacurta 6. Nesta 7. Donadoni 8. Mussi 9. Torricelli 10. Albertini 11. Baggio 12. Toldo 13. Rossitto 14. Del Piero 15. Di Livio 16. Di Matteo 17. Fuser 18. Casiraghi 19. Chiesa 20. Ravanelli 21. Zola 22. Bucci

  • Manager: Flag of Italy Arrigo Sacchi