Zola: My dream is to manage Chelsea

"I realise that I need to improve as a manager if I want to get there (manage Chelsea). And I am working hard to achieve my goal," the former Chelsea star said.

Gianfranco Zola is currently managing Qatar Stars League side Al Arabi.   -  Getty Images

Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola has said his dream is to coach his former club. The former Italian forward, currently manager of Qatar Stars League (QSL) side Al Arabi, told www.sc.qa that his successful start in Qatar will help him enormously in working towards his ambition.

“My dream, let us say my ambition, is to be Chelsea manager some day in the future,” said Zola, who turns 50 next July. He scored 59 goals in 229 appearances for the West London side between 1996 and 2003.

“However, I realise that I need to improve as a manager if I want to get there. And I am working hard to achieve my goal. Qatar is helping me a lot in this regard,” he added.

Backing Mourinho

Zola, however, stuck by Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, stressing that the defending Premier League champions will recover from a difficult start to the season in which they are already 14 points adrift of leaders Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the table after just 11 matches.

“The club has it in them to turn around their fortunes,” said the former West Ham manager. “A good result in the UEFA Champions League game against Kiev followed by a couple of league wins will do the trick,” he said. “There is no one compelling reason for the poor start to the season. The poor form of key offensive players Eden Hazard and Diego Costa has not helped. Defensively as well the team dropped the standards set last year. So the players have lost confidence as a group and this has led to poor results.”

Hazard, voted the best Premier League player of last season, is perceived by the Stamford Bridge supporters as the most technically gifted player to don the club colours since the departure of the charismatic Zola, who featured in Serie A club Napoli’s 1989-90 title winning team alongside the legendary Diego Maradona.

Attractive football

Zola, who was appointed Al Arabi coach in July, has turned heads in the region by transforming the QSL outfit to a team playing attractive attacking football. In the process he has brought the club’s fans back to the stadium in search of a first league win since 1997.

“I try to make my side play football in the way I want to see the game played. I have made a small start with Al Arabi and I am confident the results will be seen in the near future,” he said.

‘Maradona had it tougher’

The 1994 World Cup finalist took the opportunity to compare two of the greatest offensively skilful players in the sport’s history.

“I think it is unfair to compare Maradona and Messi because they are from different eras. Both are extraordinary players and I learned my football watching Maradona play. He is my master and mentor and therefore I have empathy towards him,” said Zola. “Maradona had it tougher than Messi. There were two players always marking him and their only duty was to take him out of the game. Yes, modern defenders mark Messi but these days the game is more attacking in nature and defenders focus on playing their own game rather than focus on one player alone. I think Maradona would have scored much more goals if he were a modern player.”

If the 1986 World Cup in Mexico helped his mentor etch his name into the sport’s all-time pantheons, Zola is hopeful the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will produce new icons and inspire billions across the world. “There is genuine passion for the sport in the Middle East and I had not expected this when I came here,” he said. “The 2022 World Cup will bring in knowledge and help take football to a different level in Qatar and in the region.”

Happy to be in Qatar

“Every day I see a lot of wonderful things happening in preparation for the big event. Doha is already a great city and I think in four or five years this is going to be an extraordinary place to be in. The World Cup will be massive,” Zola said. “I played in the 1994 World Cup in the United States and it was very tough out there with the heat and humidity. I am sure the players will find it much easier in Qatar in 2022. The tournament will be staged in November and December and the weather at this time is perfect for football.”

Courtesy Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

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