Cult figure Gianfranco Zola picks his all time best Chelsea XI
Gianfranco Zola is considered to be one of the all-time greats of Chelsea. The diminutive Italian arrived on the English shores from Parma as one of the best signings in English football in the year 1996. Zola dazzled in the League and went on to become one of the greatest players ever to have played in England and for Chelsea.
With Chelsea winning this season’s Premier League title, the Italian chose the occasion to pick his all-time best Chelsea playing XI for Sportsmail. Zola chose a 4-3-3 formation in which he picked players from this year’s title winning team along with those who played with him when he arrived at Stamford Bridge.
However, it is quite surprising to note that the Italian magician who spent seven successful seasons at Chelsea did not pick himself, even though he could have easily and rightly been part of the Chelsea Dream XI.
He has been an amazing goalkeeper, always in control of the situation. He doesn’t make many mistakes – he has to be in the side.
Him not being in the Chelsea team now is part of the game. Chelsea are a very ambitious club and they had the opportunity to take Thibaut Courtois who will be an unbelievable keeper in the years to come.
This is a difficult choice. Albert Ferrer was very good, but I’m going for Ivanovic. He does very well in both phases of the game - going forward and defensively.
He scores a lot of goals from set-pieces, that’s enough to get him in but Ferrer is just behind him.
Marcel Desailly and John Terry
They’re both strong defensively and they’re both good with the ball. They’re two very good leaders. Marcel doesn’t speak much, he’s a silent leader but he’s got so much presence.
John is more outspoken, but you could close your eyes and throw the captain’s armband at the pair of them and whoever it landed on is an incredible leader.
Graeme Le Saux
I know Ashley Cole has done very well for Chelsea and probably deserves it, but I think Graeme Le Saux was terrific for us. He also gave me the cross which I backheeled into the goal against Norwich!
He has to be in here – of course! He was so important for everyone at the club. He was necessary – there were very different personalities and characters and Dennis got them all together. Whether you were English or an international player, you respected him. He was a hell of a player, too.
He was dynamic, technically very good. He played for us not only for his leadership but for his ability, so he deserves to be here.
There’s no explanation needed here. He scored so many goals from midfield, I don’t think there are any midfielders in the world who could do that – important goals, too.
He took the position to another level. He has my respect. I’m pleased to be named as one of Chelsea’s milestone players alongside him. It won’t be easy to see another like him
Roberto Di Matteo
It’s a pity not to have Gustavo Poyet in there, but Robbie did so well for Chelsea. Having him at the club meant a great deal to me when I arrived.
He knew me, he knew how to pass me the right balls. Him and Gianluca Vialli quickened the process of me settling in.
If he keeps going at the rate he is he will be talked about like some of the other players in this team – although he’ll have to do it for a few years! Eden’s best quality is a one-versus-one situation.
That comes from the power in his legs. He’s very explosive and that allows him to always have an extra yard on the opposition.
Another one who has to be in. I would have loved to have played with him. When he first arrived, he was perfect for the way Jose Mourinho was playing at the time. You had the big striker, with Arjen Robben and Damien Duff on the wings – it was ideal.
He had the physical presence, he could bully anyone. Unstoppable. He could handle one or two defenders and still score. He also had real personality.
I’m going for a 4-3-3. When he was fit, he was simply unstoppable. He was the equivalent of Eden Hazard now. He was quick, strong, he could score goals. On his day, defenders had no chance to stop him. Again, like Didier, he was perfect for the way Mourinho was playing.