Gianfranco Zola Joins Chelsea as Assistant Coach to New Manager Maurizio Sarri

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 18, 2018

CAGLIARI, ITALY - OCTOBER 15:  Gianfranco Zola seen  during the Serie A match between Cagliari Calcio and Genoa CFC at Stadio Sant'Elia on October 15, 2017 in Cagliari, Italy.  (Photo by Enrico Locci/Getty Images)
Enrico Locci/Getty Images

Gianfranco Zola will return to Stamford Bridge this season after Chelsea confirmed the club legend will serve as assistant to new manager Maurizio Sarri. 

The Blues announced on Wednesday that Zola would come back to the site of his greatest club career moments after 15 years away from Stamford Bridge:

Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC

Once a Blue, always a Blue! 💙 Gianfranco Zola will join Maurizio Sarri's backroom team as Assistant first team coach! Welcome home, Gianfranco! More 👉 https://t.co/TUIbZS3lJo https://t.co/wOtFiJFDnf

The 52-year-old last managed Birmingham City in a five-month tenure that ended in April 2017, and, alongside Sarri, he'll hope to establish an Italian connection that bears fruit for the southwest Londoners.

Zola spoke of his delight to have returned to Chelsea after years away and the upcoming fight alongside his compatriot, Sarri, per the club's official website:

"For me it is an amazing thing. I am very willing to work hard because it is going to be a difficult challenge but I am pleased to be here, and to work hard with Maurizio to be successful. It would be great to be successful with Maurizio and for the club and I will give my best, as I did in the past as a player, so I will give my best in my new position.

"I am very much looking forward to the challenge in general. I would love us to start well and we are all very excited to start this new adventure."

It was 10 years ago that Zola made the last of his 312 appearances for the Blues, and he returns seeking his first Premier League crown, having failed to win one in seven years as a player at the club:

B/R Football @brfootball

A legend returns. Gianfranco Zola has joined Chelsea as an assistant first-team coach! 🔵 https://t.co/Nj660eMK49

While he never got his hands on that particular trophy, Chelsea stood out as the most successful club of Zola's career, clinching two FA Cups, one League Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

The former forward scored 80 goals during his time with the Blues and was also named Chelsea Player of the Season on two occasions.

Zola has some experience managing in England's top flight and led West Ham United for two seasons, finishing ninth and 17th in 2009 and 2010, respectively, before his contract was terminated.

James Benge of the Evening Standard called the decision to bring Zola in "shrewd," perhaps a suggestion the return of a club cult hero is a tactic to salve any unrest at the club following Antonio Conte's messy departure:

James Benge @jamesbenge

Gianfranco Zola the new Chelsea assistant, a shrewd move by the Blues. Zola: "I am pleased to be here, to work hard with Maurizio to be successful. It would be great to be successful with Maurizio and for the club and I will give my best, as I did in the past as a player."

It took time to get Sarri installed as manager of his new club, too, and the club will hope their second successive Italian chief can do what Conte did and deliver a Premier League crown in his maiden season.

Zola has also garnered some reputation as a keen promoter of youth players in his managerial career thus far, which is one aspect in which he might hope to help aid Sarri in adjusting to his new setting.