Chelsea’s trysts with football magicians over the years would likely fill several volumes in the club’s history book. Gianfranco Zola, however, occupies a particularly special place in the hearts of the Blues faithful for being the torchbearer of a club that would go on to take the football world by storm.
Gianfranco Zola had an unspectacular start to his professional career and plied his trade in Serie C till the age of 23. Napoli was the only Serie A club to take note of Gianfranco Zola’s abilities and earmarked the forward as the ideal understudy to the legendary Diego Maradona. Gianfranco Zola spent most of his career in Italy on the sidelines and was termed a “square peg” by Carlo Ancelotti – a term that he would eventually come to regret. Gianfranco Zola’s burgeoning reputation saw him earn a move to Chelsea in 1996, and the Sardinian maestro would go on to transform the fortunes of the club.
Zola’s sheer ability to work wonders with the ball at his feet took the Premier League by storm. The prodigious Italian was regularly deployed as an attacking midfielder or a support striker and his otherworldly exploits stunned teammates and opponents alike. Gianfranco Zola was, as Claudio Ranieri aptly put, a wizard taking on the world. The Chelsea legend’s joyous style of play was only rivaled by a select few of his peers and his Cruyff turns and pinpoint set-pieces made him a cult hero at Stamford Bridge.
Widely regarded as one of the best players to have ever donned the Chelsea shirt, the Italian forward established a legacy of his own and was fondly nicknamed “Magic Box” at Stamford Bridge. Gianfranco Zola won two FA Cups with Chelsea and his approach to the beautiful game effectively established the foundation of arguably the most glorious era in the club’s history. Zola’s near-inexplicable audacity and pure artistry on the pitch produced a plethora of memorable moments that continue to resonate with the club’s legacy today.
Chelsea has paid tribute to their Sardinian legend on several occasions in the past. In a recent video released by the club, lifelong Chelsea fan and Bollywood superstar Arjun Kapoor takes the Blues fanbase on a trip down memory lane and Gianfranco Zola’s extraordinary Chelsea career. Arjun Kapoor was appointed Chelsea’s brand ambassador for India last year and has hosted several shows for the club. The club’s new series is titled ‘Legends of the Bridge’ and aptly features Chelsea’s very own ‘Italian Maradona’ in its first episode.
Published 16 Dec 2020, 19:49 IST