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Six of the most influential Italians in Premier League history

Italy is one of football’s most respected nations, with the Italians four-time winners of the World Cup and a country that has produced some truly top talent that has starred in the Premier League.

Throughout the years there has been some iconic Italians who have made an unforgettable impact in the Premier League, from brilliant goalscorers to top-level tacticians. In celebration of some of division’s greatest imports, we’ve paid tribute to the most influential Italians in Premier League history.

Six of the most influential Italians in Premier League history.

Gianluca Vialli

Ruud Gullit’s appointment as Chelsea manager saw the west Londoners undergo a foreign revolution in the mid-nineties, with Gianluca Vialli arriving as a marquee signing at Stamford Bridge.

The forward signed on a free transfer after captaining Juventus to Champions League success the previous season and made an immediate impact with his goalscoring pedigree and work-ethic from the front.

A difficult relationship with Gullit saw Vialli in and out of the side, but he produced some memorable moments including a fourth-round brace against Liverpool as Chelsea won the FA Cup in his debut season, the club’s first silverware in 26 years.

Vialli was named as player-manager of the Blues after the departure of Gullit the following season and led Chelsea to League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup success. The club’s triumph in the Cup Winners’ Cup made Vialli the youngest manager to win a UEFA competition at that time, aged 33 years and 308 days old.

The Italian ended his playing career having scored 40 goals in 88 appearances for Chelsea and led the club to FA Cup and Charity Shield success in 2000, having called time on his career to focus on management.

He was surprisingly sacked early in the 2000/01 season and later had a short spell at Watford.

Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola is regarded as one of the greatest players in Chelsea’s history, with the forward a fans’ favourite after seven successful seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Signed from Parma in November 1996 as the west Londoners brought in a host of exciting imports, he captured the imagination instantaneously to be named as the FWA Footballer of the Year, becoming the first – and so far only – player to win the award without playing a full season in the English top-flight.

Zola continued to star across the following seasons as Chelsea won a host of cup competitions, with the diminutive Italian scoring the winner in the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final against Stuttgart.

Zola won four trophies during his time with the club and produced a catalogue of unforgettable moments, from a wonderful solo goal against Manchester United, to an improvised back-heeled effort against Norwich, and a host of fantastic free-kicks.

He scored 80 goals in 311 games for Chelsea before returning to Italy with Cagliari and was voted as the Blues’ all-time greatest player in the summer of his departure in 2003.

Paolo Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio was box-office viewing during a long career in the Premier League, a forward who combined moments of magic with more than a little sprinkling of madness.

Controversial and captivating in equal measure, he signed for Sheffield Wednesday after an impressive spell at Celtic and was named as The Owls’ Player of the Year: during his debut campaign after scoring 14 goals in all competitions.

Di Canio’s career with the club came to a premature end after an 11-match ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground, but West Ham took a gamble on the fiery forward and reaped the rewards. Di Canio became idolised during five seasons with the Hammers that saw him score 51 goals in 141 games.

He was capable of producing extraordinary moments, including that scissor-kick goal against Wimbledon and an audacious flick and volley at Chelsea. Unpredictable, passionate and often special, he departed West Ham for a short spell at Charlton following the former’s relegation in 2003.

Few footballers have ever won the hearts of the Hammers quite like Di Canio.

Golazo Merchants: The mad genius, Paolo Di Canio

Carlo Ancelotti

No nation has had more Premier League-winning managers than Italy, with four different coaches from the country having lifted English football’s biggest prize.

Carlo Ancelotti was the first to achieve the feat during the 2009/10 season as the Italian’s debut campaign at Chelsea ended in double success. Ancelotti’s side lifted the Premier League and FA Cup and did so in stunning style, becoming the first top-flight team to reach a century of league goals since Tottenham Hotspur in 1962/63.

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Ancelotti’s Chelsea broke Premier League records at that time for most goals scored (103), most home goals scored (68) and best goal difference (+71), while the west Londoners wrapped up the title with an 8-0 thrashing of Wigan on the final day.

Ancelotti was a surprise dismissal as Chelsea finished as runners-up the following season, before later returning to the Premier League for a short spell at Everton. He is the only coach in history to have won each of Europe’s top five leagues.

Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini followed in the footsteps of Ancelotti to win the Premier League in 2011/12, a triumph which helped kick-start an era of domestic dominance for Manchester City.

Mancini was appointed as Manchester City managed after winning a hat-trick of Serie A titles at Inter Milan, with the Italian viewed as the marquee manager to lead the big-spending new era under Sheikh Mansour.

Mancini’s first full season saw him lead the Citizens to FA Cup success, as Yaya Toure’s final winner against Stoke ended the club’s 35-year wait for a major trophy.

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The following season saw City crowned as top-flight champions for the first time since 1968. Sergio Aguero’s stoppage-time goal snatched the Premier League title from Manchester United in the final seconds of the season, with the Argentine’s dramatic winner against QPR etched into the division’s history.

Affectionately dubbed ‘Bobby Manc’ at the Etihad, he paved the path for a new era of success on the blue half of Manchester.

Claudio Ranieri

Claudio Ranieri’s appointment as Leicester City manager was greeted with more than a fair share of scepticism. The veteran Italian coach had spent time at some of Europe’s leading clubs in Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan, but a disastrous spell with the Greece national team had indicated that perhaps his best days were behind him.

His debut season proved to be arguably the most memorable Premier League campaign of all time, as Leicester – pre-season relegation favourites and 5000-1 outsiders to be crowned champions – shocked the sporting world.

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Ranieri’s team upset incredible odds to win the first top-flight title in the club’s long history, as the Foxes won the Premier League. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were the inspiration behind the triumph, as a team whose first-choice XI cost just £22m took on, and beat, England’s elite.

Ranieri’s long managerial career has spanned almost four decades, but his role in Leicester’s fairytale triumph will be the moment he is most remembered for.

Read – Gianfranco Zola: The little genius who dropped jaws and opened minds

Read Also – Benito Carbone: A frustrating import frozen in time

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