Gianfranco Zola was one of the Premier League’s first and finest high profile foreign imports of the 1990’s. He arrived at Chelsea in 1996 having learned his trade from the legendary Diego Maradona at Napoli and soon lit-up the Premier League with a series of world class displays.
The diminutive Italian was renowned for his vision, skill and lethal free-kick taking ability. Zola was that type of player that was so good he almost transcended club allegiances and will forever be fondly remembered by Premier League fans. Here are a collection of the best quotes about and by the little magician …
What they said about him …
“Little Gianfranco Zola… he annoyed me. He was one of these players who was unperturbed about who he was playing against. He always seemed to have a smile on his face and that annoyed me. How can he be enjoying himself playing against United? Nobody else does. He was a fantastic player and I loved watching him. It was enjoyable and for me to say that about an opponent tells you how much I admired him.”Sir Alex Ferguson.
“The best I ever played with, no doubt. I used to marvel at him in training each day. Gianfranco made you a better player: he knew what I was going to do before I’d even thought of it.”Gus Poyet.
“I could never tell where he was going to shoot – unplayable and read the game like no other.” Peter Schmeichel.
“Gianfranco tries everything because he is a wizard and the wizard must try.” Claudio Ranieri after Zola did this …
“I played against him a few times and he is one of the best imports our game has seen. So skilful, yet so committed. He was a credit to the Premier League.”Les Ferdinand.
“‘The magician’ did things with the ball I’ve never seen before or since. Had brilliant technique and incredible balance, almost a carbon copy of Maradona, with whom he played at Napoli. His free-kicks were extraordinary. A true artist, who could show you things you didn’t know about the game, and the perfect foil for a big, strong striker.”Brian Laudrup.
“If you want me to name just one who really inspired and helped me then it would be Gianfranco Zola. I came to Chelsea as quite a shy boy and it was for a big fee [ . . . ]. Zola took me under his wing. He was 35 and established as a world-class player, and I was fascinated by the way he trained, practised his free-kicks daily and was always the last on the training ground. He was a gentleman off the pitch and I thought that was how I’d like to be if I could ever get anywhere near what he’s done in the game.”Frank Lampard.
What he said …
“All of us – teams, directors, managers – are passing through a football club. Supporters are there always. And they never forget.”
“From afar, people may think he’s a madman, but he isn’t. Mario is a lovely guy, very humble and very funny.” On maverick striker Mario Balotelli.
“The game is so serious, there is no fun.” On Serie A.
“Ninety-five per cent of my language problems are the fault of that stupid little midget.” When asked about former team-mate Dennis Wise.
“He has good spirit, but he doesn’t love Chelsea, you can buy his service but you can never buy his love for Liverpool.” On Fernando Torres’ struggles after his £50 million move from Liverpool.
“Drogba loves Chelsea, speaks and eats Chelsea, his life is all about the team.”He was a big fan of Blues legend Didier Drogba though.
“I gave Chelsea fans what they wanted, a dream. And they gave me what I was dreaming of too.”
“People say Chelsea have no history but that is not true. Even if it was, history can be written.”