Receiver of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and the honorary OBE of Britain, Zola has made himself into a footballing legend on and off the field. As an icon of the English Premier League side Chelsea, we take a look at a selection of the greatest quotes on Gianfranco Zola.
Playing with Diego Maradona at Italian side Napoli in the early part of his career, Zola joined the ‘Blues’ in 1996, and spent seven seasons at Stamford Bridge, winning the FA Cup twice, and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup once.
Coming back as an assistant manager in 2018, Zola scored some memorable goals for the club, and was subsequently named their best ever player by the Chelsea fans.
Apart from Chelsea, he competed for the rest of his career in his home country of Italy, and the total number of league games amounted to 629 with nearly 200 goals. His most prolific goal spurt came with Parma where he recorded 49 goals in 102 league outings. The only league success came with Napoli with a Serie A honour in 1990.
It was at Napoli that Zola played with Maradona for a couple of years, and from whom he learnt many of his skills. Despite all his appearances at domestic level, Zola only represented the Italian national team on 35 occasions.
After his playing days, Zola tried his hand as a football coach, and managed such teams as the Italian youth, West Ham United, and his short stint at Stamford Bridge.
“He’s succeeding because of his mentality, passion and heart. He wants to play well and he wants to play for Chelsea…..he is very important and he is a good example in training…..He’s a great player and a great ambassador for the club.”
Claudio Ranieri (Chelsea manager)
“He is a Chelsea legend.”
John Terry (former Chelsea team-mate)
“Napoli doesn’t need to look for anyone to replace me, the team already has Zola!”
Diego Maradona (Napoli team-mate)
“…..clever little so-and-so.”
Alex Ferguson (Manchester United manager
“Gianfranco tries everything because he is a wizard and the wizard must try.”
“…..the most enduring and popular foreign player in the history of Chelsea…..having made a remarkable contribution to English football.”
British embassy (on player receiving mbe)
“Zola was undoubtedly one of Chelsea’s greatest players ever…..He’s been a joy to watch and a great influence both on and off the field, particularly because of his great interest with young fans. We owe him a hell of a lot of thanks.”
Ken Bates (former Chelsea chairman)
“He has a record of developing young footballers, which is very important to us, and was obviously a world-class player…..Experienced players like to have a manager they can respect as a footballer.”
West Ham United FC
“…..has shown dedication, resilience and commitment to his players, staff and the fans. Without a doubt Gianfranco is a talented young manager…..”
Richard Bevan (League Managers Association chief executive)
“Tactically and technically he will be able to improve the West Ham players…..People in Italy tell me that Gianfranco is a quality coach. He was always demanding of himself as a player and will want his team to show the same level of commitment and professionalism.”
Marcel Desailly (former Chelsea team-mate)
Claudio Ranieri (after goal versus Norwich City in FA Cup)
“Young Chelsea players like Frank Lampard used to look at Gianfranco’s attitude, professionalism and technique, and try to emulate it. He is a guy who leads by example…..He’s a great man and a great manager.”
Robert Green (Chelsea goalkeeper)
“We’re behind that man. He is a top manager, in my opinion, and we’re all behind him.”
Mido (Chelsea player)
“Franco’s our man. We’ve got confidence he will get us out of trouble…..Franco’s determined to do his best and I’m content with the way things are.”
David Gold (West Ham United co-owner)
“Zola was a legend as a player and I hope he brings that to his managerial career.”
Alan Pardew (former West Ham manager)
“Everyone knows how Gianfranco Zola likes football to be played…..I think Watford’s fans can expect an exciting and attacking style from his team. Gianfranco represents this project perfectly.”
Gianluca Nani (Watford FC’s technical director)
“His pedigree, philosophy and ambition fits with what we would like to achieve as we move in a new direction…..Gianfranco has a wealth of top-level experience as both manager and player…..”
Panos Pavlakis (Birmingham City director)
“He is ‘Gianfranco the Younger’. He has a mentality, a passion and a heart for the game, he wants to play well…..He has got a good feeling with the crowd.”