GIANFRANCO ZOLA

Gianfranco Zola

Over seven seasons Gianfranco Zola captivated Chelsea supporters to the extent that he was twice made Player of the Year and in 2003 was voted as the club's greatest ever player, receiving 60% of the votes in a poll on Chelsea's official website.

He helped win four trophies and scored the winner in the 1998 European Cup Winners' Cup Final just seconds after coming on as substitute. In all Franco, scored 80 goals in 312 games, with many of them being spectacular efforts.

Goals that will live long in the memory include the mid-air back flick against Norwich City, an effort against Manchester United that left opposition goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel motionless and a brilliant turn and shot in the 1997 FA Cup semi-final win over Wimbledon.

Above all, Franco always played football as if he enjoyed it and was almost universally popular amongst opposition fans.

Zola did suffer a dip in form during the 2001/02 season but returned strongly the following season, scoring 16 times as we qualified for the Champions League. He scored his last goal for Chelsea on Easter Monday 2003 and in his final appearance came on for the last 20 minutes of the win over Liverpool that saw us claim fourth place. Zola's last act as a Chelsea player was to go on a mazy run past four bemused defenders.

A month later, he signed for his home island club Cagliari despite the offer of an improved contract by new owner Roman Abramovich. Franco had given his word to the Sardinian side the day before the takeover and typically would not go back on the agreement.


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