Gianfranco Zola Biography

Wed 31 March 2021 | 14:30

Regarded as one of the most creative strikers of his generation, many consider Zola to be one of the best Chelsea forwards of all time. In this article, we take a look at Gianfranco Zola biography.

Gianfranco Zola, born on 5 July 1966, in Oliena, Italy, is an Italian football manager and former professional football player. Zola signed his first professional contract with Nuorese in 1984. In 1986 he moved to Torres and three years later he signed for Serie A side Napoli.

The young and talented Zola scored two goals as Diego Maradona's substitute when Napoli won

Serie A

in 1990. Maradona was a major influence on Zola's career. Zola helped Napoli win the Italian Super Cup in 1991. In 1993 Zola left Napoli to join another Serie A side, Parma. He won the UEFA Cup with Parma. It was with the blue and yellow club that he cemented his reputation as a creative player. However, coach Carlo Ancelotti told Zola that he was unable to fit into his new system. Zola played infrequently and was eventually put up for transfer.

Zola, also known to Blues fans as Magic Box, because of his genius moves, and Little Giant, because of his short stature, lived his best career years playing for


, winning the player of the year award in his first season in English football, being the first to achieve such a feat without playing a full season, as Zola arrived only in the middle of the season. After his departure, Franco was voted the greatest player in the club's history.

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All You Need to Know About Gianfranco Zola Biography

Zola played 35 matches for the Italian national team. He scored nine goals, including three in the European Championship qualifier against Lithuania (4-0) in Reggio Emilia. He played for his homeland at the 1994 World Cup and the 1996 European Championship.

The 1994 World Cup was a dramatic one for Zola. In the eighth final against Nigeria, Mexican referee Arturo Brizio Carter showed him the red card. The little playmaker would not play for


again during the tournament, which did reach the final and lost to


on penalties.

In 2017, he was named as the seventh-best foreign player in English Premier League history in the Premier League era by the respected FourFourTwo magazine, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry, Éric Cantona, Dennis Bergkamp, Didier Drogba and Sergio Agüero.

Gianfranco Zola Information

Now that you know him much better, in this section of

Gianfranco Zola biography

we want to share some general information about him such as

Gianfranco Zola nationality

. Stay tuned.

Gianfranco Zola Bio

  • Full Name: Gianfranco Zola

  • Nickname: Magic box

  • Profession: Professional Footballer

Gianfranco Zola Physical Stats

  • Weight: 68 Kg

  • Height: 1.68 m

  • Eye Color: Brown

  • Hair Color: Dark Brown

Gianfranco Zola Football Information

  • Position: Striker

  • Jersey Number: 25

  • Professional Debut: 1984

Gianfranco Zola Date of Birth and Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 5 July 1966

  • Birth Place: Oliena, Italy

  • Zodiac Sign: Cancer

  • Nationality: Italian

Now stay tuned in this section of

Gianfranco Zola biography

as we will share some information about

Gianfranco Zola childhood


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Gianfranco Zola Early Life

Zola's career began with his hometown team, Corrasi di Oliena, where he immediately showed off his talent, earning a contract with Nuorese in 1984. At Nuoro, Zola played two seasons in C2. In the first season, the youngster only made 7 appearances and scored 1 goal, but in the following season (1985/1986) he became a permanent member of the team and by the end of the season had made 24 appearances and scored 9 goals.

In the summer of 1986, Zola moved to Sassari Torres, a team of which he immediately became the star, and thanks to his performances managed to win promotion to Serie C1 at the end of the season.

After the promotion Zola spent two more seasons in C1 with Sassari Torres, he was one of the most promising talents around and in the summer of 1989 Napoli managed to sign him.

Twenty-three-year-old Gianfranco left Sardinia to play in Serie A, a new challenge awaited him but above all his dream of playing alongside the undisputed star of world football in those years came true: Diego Armando Maradona.

Gianfranco Zola Profile



1-0 at the San Paolo, Napoli became Italian champions for the second time in their history. The Naples team was a great one and Zola, who made his debut, finished his first season with only 7 appearances but scored 2 goals.

It was an apprenticeship season for the Sardinian talent on the slopes of Vesuvius, Zola was the young apprentice of the great master Maradona and together with the Argentine spent hours learning how to take set pieces.

Maradona's teachings immediately bore fruit and the following season Zola was the undisputed starter, thus earning his first call-up to the national team. At the end of the year, he made 31 appearances and scored 6 goals.

In the following two seasons Zola consecrated himself as an established player on the Italian scene and in addition to being a permanent member of the national team, he scored twice, ending the 1991/92 and 1992/93 seasons with 12 goals.

Zola was the darling of the San Paolo after Maradona's departure but in the summer of 1993, due to the economic situation of the club,


sold the player to Parma.

It was a painful farewell for Zola from Naples, the fans accused him of betrayal, but he replied that he was forced to leave by the club. It is well known that the most passionate loves are those with the most painful goodbyes. Zola gave a lot to Napoli and Napoli loved Zola a lot, but for the player, a new challenge opened up: to be successful with Parma.

Now stay tuned in this section of

Gianfranco Zola biography

as we will share some information about his



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With the Parma shirt Zola experienced three seasons full of joy and goals. He finished all three seasons with 19 goals and came close to winning the Scudetto.

The 1994/1995 season was the year of the endless challenge between Parma and the


with the new coach Marcello Lippi. The two teams faced each other throughout the season in a thrilling head-to-head battle to win the championship and were also rivals in the

Coppa Italia

and UEFA Cup finals.

After the Scudetto was won by the Bianconeri, the two teams faced each other in the double European final. In the first leg, Parma won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Dino Baggio, who beat Rampulla on a beautiful throw from Zola. In the second leg in Milan, the Bianconeri took the lead in the first half thanks to a goal by Vialli, but in the second half, Dino Baggio beat Juventus and gave Parma the trophy.

Zola, along with Paolo Maldini, is the only Italian to be included in the ESM (European Sports Magazines, the European association of football-related publications) team of the year.

It was the end of a fantastic season for Zola as he lifted his first international trophy, which would not be his last.

Also in the following season (1995/1996), Zola scored 19 goals in Serie A, but Parma ended the season only in the fifth place and without any trophy, but he was among the players called for the European Championship in 1996.

In the summer Parma got a new coach, Carlo Ancelotti. The Emilian coach made Zola play out of position within his rigid tactical line-up and the disagreements between the two didn't take long to arrive. The striker was put on the transfer list and in November Parma accepted an offer of £4.5m from Chelsea and sold the player. After three seasons of high level, Zola left Parma and tried the adventure across the Channel.

Now stay tuned in this section of Gianfranco Zola biography as we will share some information about his career at Chelsea.


In 1996 he moved to the London club Chelsea for 12.5 billion lire, where he found another Italian: Gianluca Vialli. His experience in England was of absolute importance and earned him the praises of the press and fans - who nicknamed him Magic Box - because of his performances and the fairness he showed on and off the pitch.

At the end of his first English season, which ended with him winning the FA Cup and during which he demonstrated his talent, he was awarded the best player in the league.

In his first two seasons in the Premier League, the striker put on a show in every stadium and soon became the undisputed idol of Chelsea's London.

In the first year, in his second month in England, he was already awarded the Player of the Month prize and at the end of the season, he scored 12 goals in 30 appearances. He also won the

FA Cup



(Roberto Di Matteo also scored), a success that allowed the team from the famous London district to play in the Cup Winners' Cup the following season.

Zola was awarded FWA Player of the Year at the end of the season and, more importantly, Premier League Player of the Year, the first player to win the trophy without playing the full season and the first player in Chelsea's history to win the prestigious award.

His second season was a repeat of the first, scoring his first Premier League hat-trick against

Derby County

, winning the Curling Cup and taking Chelsea to the Cup Winners' Cup final. Due to an injury, he was forced to start the game from the bench but was brought on in the second half anyway.

Just 21 seconds after his entrance, he took advantage of a deep pass from Wise to put a great right-footed shot under the crossbar into the opponent's goal: it was the winning goal, Chelsea won the Cup Winners' Cup, Zola once again confirmed himself as one of the greatest players in Europe.

Despite his performances and successes, the 1997/98 season ended bitterly for Zola as Cesare Maldini excluded him from the World Cup squad. From that moment on, Zola never played for the national team again.

Gianfranco Zola's seasons in England went on brighter than ever as the years progressed. Zola was a mix of imagination, tactical intelligence and a good number of goals that made him one of the undisputed stars of those English years.

After his Cup Winners' Cup success, he won the European Super Cup, his second FA Cup, the Charity Shield, the Player of the Month award in October 2002, the second Premier League Player of the Year in 2003 and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

His number 25 shirt became a legend and in 2003 Chelsea decided to retire it forever in his honour, as no one would ever be able to wear that shirt again.

But perhaps the greatest satisfaction of Zola's life came in 2004 when he was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire after having been honoured a few months earlier with the title of Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

In the summer of 2004, Chelsea changed ownership and passed into the hands of Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich. Zola, now 38 years old, expressed the desire to end his career in his homeland and decided to move to Cagliari. Abramovich invested astronomical sums of money to strengthen the team and even tried to convince him to stay one last season to play his last

Champions League

match, but the lure of Sardinia was too strong and Zola decided to abandon the European glory and go to play in his homeland in

Serie B


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Zola spent the last two seasons of his brilliant career in Cagliari. In his first season in Serie B, Zola led Cagliari to the promotion and the following season, thanks to his 10 goals, Cagliari achieved a quiet survival.

Zola played his last game in Serie A in Turin against Juventus and scored twice. In addition to receiving the Scirea Award for his career and the Silver Ball for his fair play, the following season Cagliari retired the number 10 shirt in his honour.

Italy National Team

Zola made his debut in the national team on November 13, 1991, at the age of 25, in the first match of the coach Arrigo Sacchi, the match Italy-Norway (1-1) played in Genoa for the qualification for the 1992 European Championship.

He was called up for the 1994 World Cup, but his time in the tournament was short: as a substitute in the round of 16 match against


, he played just 12 minutes and was then sent off by Mexican referee Brizio Carter, due to a foul considered fair by the Italian players, and was suspended for two matches.

On 25 March 1995 he scored his first goals in the national team, scoring a double in the qualifying match for the 1996 European Championship against Estonia (4-1) played in Salerno. He was called up for the final phase of the European Championship, but in the third match of the group, against


(0-0), he missed a decisive penalty to get to the quarter-finals and the Azzurri were eliminated in the first round.

He had rejoined the national team by Cesare Maldini, and on 12 February 1997, he scored the goal that allowed Italy to conquer Wembley Stadium for the second time in their history, defeating England in a qualifying match for the 1998 World Cup. However, he was not called up for the final phase of the tournament: Roberto Baggio had in fact won over the Sardinian fantasist and the other players in contention for the last available place in the offensive line.

His last match in the national team was the one played in Rome on 11 October 1997, against England, except for the special call-up to the Azzurri by coach Giovanni Trapattoni for the match between the Italian national team and a selection of foreign players playing in Serie A, on the occasion of the 2000 Jubilee held at the Olympic Stadium on 29 October 2000.

Now stay tuned in this section of Gianfranco Zola biography as we will share some information about his career as a football manager.

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Coaching Career

From 2006 to September 2008, Gianfranco Zola coached the Italian U-21 national team together with Pierluigi Casiraghi, whom he had already met at Chelsea. The duo also managed the Italian side at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where they reached the quarter-finals before losing 3-2 to Belgium.

Zola signed a three-year contract with English club West Ham United on 9 September 2008 to replace Alan Curbishley and officially took up his post on 11 September 2008. After finishing ninth in the English club's first season, narrowly missing out on qualification for the European Cup, he and the team battled relegation the following year. Despite finishing 17th in the final league table, the club sacked him shortly after the end of the season.

It was on 7 July 2012 that English second division side FC Watford announced the signing of Zola as their new manager. He finished the 2012/13 Football League Championship with his team third in the table. After a playoff win over Leicester City, Watford advanced to the final but failed to win it, losing 1-0 after extra time to Crystal Palace at Wembley. After a poor start to the following season, Zola stepped down from his post on 16 December 2013.

Zola was hired as coach of Cagliari Calcio on 24 December 2014, where he succeeded Zdeněk Zeman, but his dismissal followed on 9 March 2015 after poor results.

On 11 July 2015, Zola became coach of Al-Arabi in the Qatar Stars League. He was sacked there again on 27 June 2016.

Zola became coach of English second division side Birmingham City on 14 December 2016, succeeding Gary Rowett. After winning only 2 games, Zola resigned on 18 April 2017.

On 18 July 2018, Gianfranco Zola became assistant coach of English first division club Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri.

Style of Play

A right-footed fantasy player, capable of playing as a trequartista, second striker or even as an outside player (in which, however, he did not perform at his best), he distinguished himself for his ability to dribble and provide assists for his teammates. Gifted with great technique, speed, game vision and a nose for goal, he also became famous for his excellent free-kick skills: with 20 goals, he is fifth among the best free-kick scorers in Serie A history.


He is widely regarded by many football fans, critics and fellow professionals to be one the best strikers in the history of Italian football and amongst the best who ever played for Chelsea and in the English Premier League.

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Goal Celebration

Being a striker, Zola has scored many goals during his career, however, he never had a signature goal celebration and always did different ones after scoring goals. Perhaps one of the most recognizable goals he ever scored during his career was the goal he netted against


in the 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup final just a few minutes after entering the field and his fury-filled celebration that followed. He later said that he should have celebrated that goal better.

Gianfranco Zola outside Football

Zola and his entire school class, who were on a school trip to England at the time, took part in Bonnie Tyler's music video for her surreal hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart". Towards the end of the music video, Zola sang, but only via playback.

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Gianfranco Zola Personal Life

In this section of Gianfranco Zola biography, we will take a look at his personal life and share some info about

Gianfranco Zola life story


Gianfranco Zola religion

. Stay tuned.

Family, Children and Relationships

The most famous Sardinian footballer in the world has been married to Francesca Secci for more than twenty years and together they had three children.

His son Andrea Zola also plays football, however, so far he was unable to have a good career just like his dad.

Her daughter Martina Zola is also interested in sport and is a professional figure skater.


Like many other celebrity footballers, Gianfranco Zola is always interested in participating in different charity events, whether it be charity football matches or fundraising events.

Legal Issues

In 2009, when he was West Ham United manager, a reporter named David Carrington claimed in a BBC Radio 5 Live interview that Gianfranco Zola will be the manager of Chelsea next season after he attended an interview with Abramovich, the London club’s owner.

Ultimately, BBC had to apologize to Gianfranco Zola and also pay undisclosed damages to him over those false allegations.

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Gianfranco Zola Career Statistics

In this section of Gianfranco Zola biography, we will take a deeper look into his career stats both as a player and manager, on international and club level. Stay tuned.


In a 21-years career as a professional footballer, Gianfranco Zola has played a total of 796 matches in all competitions and scored 238 goals. Between all the clubs he has played in these years, with 311 matches and 80 goals scored Chelsea is the absolute highlight of his career.


Gianfranco Zola’s international was rather short and between 1991 and 1997, he played just 35 matches for his country and scored 10 goals. His best year with Italy national team was 1995 when he managed to score 7 goals in 8 matches.


So far during his career as a football manager, Gianfranco Zola has managed his team in 215 matches, where his teams won on 70 occasions, drawn 51 matches and were defeated 94 times. With a win ration of almost 33 percent, many believe that Gianfranco Zola is not a good manager, as much as his playing days.

Gianfranco Zola Honors

During his playing career on club level, he has won many titles, which most notable of them include Serie A, UEFA Cup, European Super Cup, FA Cup, Football League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and some others.

On international level and also as a manager, Gianfranco Zola has never won any awards or titles.

Of his notable individual titles and awards, we can mention Serie A Top-assist provider, ESM Team of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, Chelsea Player of the Year, Chelsea Centenary XI, Premio Nazionale Carriera Esemplare "Gaetano Scirea" and many others.

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source: SportMob