Gianfranco Zola Heading Back to Chelsea? Don't Bank on It

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

LONDON - JULY 7:  Gianfraco Zola talks to the press about his move away from Chelsea during the press conference on July 7, 2003 at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea, London. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

With the unrest surrounding the appointment of Rafa Benitez as Chelsea's interim manager continuing to dominate column inches, news of Pep Guardiola's appointment as Bayern Munich boss has fuelled the debate as to who Chelsea's next manager will be.

Roman Abramovich's admiration of Guardiola has been no secret, and while many had predicted Bentiez's reign was merely to keep the manager's seat at Stamford Bridge warm for his compatriot, his decision to move to Germany has certainly put that theory to bed.

So if not Guardiola, who will be Chelsea's manager for 2013/14? Without any solid candidates to put forward, romance has prevailed in the eyes of some Blues fans this past week.

There has long been talk of Jose Mourinho returning to the King's Road for a hero's welcome, with various reports suggesting Real Madrid will be joining the Blues in looking for a new boss come May.

According to The Guardian's Sid Lowe and a number of other well-respected journalists in Europe, Real have lost patience with the Portuguese, but while this has lead Chelsea fans to pontificate over the "Special One" returning, another legend in Gianfranco Zola has been linked with the manager's job.

The Italian is currently enjoying a successful first season in charge at Watford as the Hornets battle for promotion to the Premier League, but he has remained tight lipped about a potential return to Chelsea.

"To be honest I am more focused on what I have to do here [at Watford]," he was quoted as saying in the Evening Standard. "I know people have been writing things but my mind is completely on this job. I want to do well until the end here."

Regardless of his ambitions at Watford, Zola knows that whatever he achieved as a player at Chelsea will count for very little were he to be appointed manager. His former Blues teammate Roberto Di Matteo found out that much, despite lifting the Champions League and FA Cup within his first few months of being in charge.

Being Chelsea manager brings with it a level of expectation that requires a certain character to overcome. Thus far, only Mourinho has truly flourished in that role under Abramovich, and for all his talents as a player, Zola hasn't yet achieved enough in management to suggest he could emulate the Portuguese.

His spell in charge of West Ham United showed positive signs, sure, but as the Hammers' development under him grinded to a halt, he was soon shown the door. It has taken him two years to find another role, this time with Championship outfit Watford, and despite their progress, it's too soon for Zola to be considered capable of making Chelsea a European force once again.

The club requires a strong personality who will be bold enough and courageous enough to bring about the change it needs. Chelsea has arguably a more talented pool of players now than it has ever had, but that talent needs to be nurtured and refined into a ruthless winning machine. Zola isn't the man for that—not yet anyhow.

Say what you will about Abramovich's hire-and-fire policy during his decade in charge at Stamford Bridge, but for every bad appointment he has made, a productive one has often followed. And of those appointments, few have been made with sentiment in mind.

Giving Zola the managerial reins at Chelsea would certainly appease fans, but would it be the right decision for footballing reasons? Not really.