Friday, 21 April 2017

Gianfranco Zola’s Birmingham blues show creative gifts can get lost in dugout | Richard Williams

The story of Italian’s past decade offers an illustration of the difficulties experienced by so many creative players who set out to translate their talents to the manager’s role

Gianfranco Zola left the manager’s job at Birmingham City on Easter Monday, the local paper said “with dignity”. His decision acknowledged the implications of supervising only two victories in 24 matches and he was praised for turning up to explain himself rather than slinking out of the back entrance. The manner of his going was consistent with the class he had shown during a 20-year playing career that took him from an amateur team in his native Sardinia to glory with Napoli, Parma and Chelsea, and to 35 senior international appearances for Italy.

In his playing days everybody loved Zola for moments like that unforgettably impudent backheeled volley against Norwich in an FA Cup tie in 2002, and for gestures such as his return to Sardinia for two valedictory seasons with Cagliari, leading them back into Serie A before signing off in his very last match with a pair of goals against Juventus.

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