Gianfranco Zola, one of the most talented players in the history of Italian football, was born in Oliena, near Nuoro, on the 5th July 1966.
He spent his youth at various clubs in Sardinia before moving to Serie A aged 23 when Napoli signed him in order to pair him up with Diego Armando Maradona. Zola went on to inherit the prestigious number 10 shirt. He won the Serie A title in his first year in Naples, which was shortly followed by the Italian Super Cup just a few months later.
After spending four seasons at Napoli, the San Paolo club were forced to sell him due to financial troubles. Parma snapped him up and he went on to win the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Cup with the Ducali, before moving to English side Chelsea.
Zola became one of the greatest players in Premier League history in the English capital and was even awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). During his spell at Chelsea, Zola won two FA Cups, one League Cup, one Community Shield, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and a UEFA Super Cup.
Despite being so successful with his club sides, Zola never carried his success into the national team. Arrigo Sacchi was the first head coach to call him up and he also made an appearance during the 1994 World Cup, albeit a very brief one: Zola only played twelve minutes in the last-16 match against Nigeria because of a harsh red card.
Two years later, at the 1996 EUROs, Zola missed a penalty against Germany and Italy failed to progress to the quarter-finals. Zola scored a total of ten goals for the Azzurri, the most famous coming in 1997, when he scored the winner at Wembley against England. He won his 35th and final cap in the same year.
After retiring, Zola worked as Pierluigi Casiraghi’s assistant manager with the Under-21 national team. It proved to be very valuable experience for Zola, as he began coaching at club level just two years later. His managerial career has seen him lead West Ham United, Watford, Cagliari, Al-Arabi and Birmingham City.