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Chelsea legend Zola tries long-distance leadership as Chelsea reach the sharp end of the season

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Lots to play for, he says, as he tries to rally players and supporters

UC Sampdoria v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Last week Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola tried his hand at being a long-distance peacemaker between Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte and Chelsea management. Whether that effort will bear fruit or not is something we’ll have to wait and see about, although the omens suggest a barren harvest.

This week, the man whose heart still beats Chelsea Blue blood is getting out of management’s office and into the players dressing room, again from long distance. He’s in Geneva at an event sponsored by Chelsea and shirt sponsor Yokohama.

It’s from there that he’s trying his hand at rallying the troops.

“This season perhaps hasn’t been quite as good as last season but the team is still doing well.

“Chelsea did very well in the first leg against Barcelona and will hope to get through [to the next round of the Champions League] in the second leg. They can still push on in the Premier League too and have a strong finish.”

Those are the words of a leader. The kind of leader, some have suggested, who is missing from the current squad, especially since the departure of talismans John Terry and Frank Lampard.

Zola and Petit celebrate win Photo By Ben Radford/Getty Images

Maybe Zola can sense that all the way from Italy, just as he sensed the fraught relationship among the club’s managers. And he’s trying to do his bit to rally the troops to the cause.

“Compared to last season, yes, of course it’s not as good, because Chelsea dominated the league so much. The Premier League is such a difficult competition, so it is uncommon to see a team dominate for two or three years in a row.

“It used to sometimes happen back in the day, with teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, but now the competition is so high, it doesn’t really happen anymore.

“But there is still plenty to play for. The Champions League is still open for us and there is still plenty available for us to have a good season.”

No head-hanging here, no defeatist attitude from the little wizard.

He’s also reaching out to the supporters.

“Of course we know it will be difficult in the Camp Nou, but we have to go there and give it everything. We need the fans to get behind the players and show their support. Hopefully there will be many fans there and hopefully they will be coming back happy with a win.”

Gianfranco Zola scores second goal Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

The man who put on the Chelsea shirt 229 times and banged in 59 goals with unparalleled creativity and masterful technique, hasn’t lost his passion for our club.

“I love Chelsea and the club has given me a lot, so whenever I can help and give something back I will.”

-Gianfranco Zola; source: Chelsea FC

Nine games left in the Premier League season. One huge game ahead next week in the Champions League. A FA Cup semi-final to negotiate in two weeks time.

As Zola says, there’s plenty to play for. We all hope that the players feel the same passion, breathe the same fire, see the same glory ahead that Zola so clearly does.