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WAGNH’s Best and Most Beautifulest Chelsea Goals Draft 2020: Number 13

Reminiscing about our most favorite and Chelsea’s greatest goals from the past ~20 years

The rules were simple: 5 bloggers, 4 rounds, snake draft. David picked first, then Yatco, Graham, André, and Rohaan. 20 goals in total.

All goals eligible except Didier Drogba’s equalizer in the 2012 Champions League final. Too obvious.

In reverse order, these are our favorite, greatest, bestest (however each of us interpreted the rules) Chelsea goals. You will probably disagree, but you’re probably wrong.

No. 13

Chelsea Zola goal Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

Gianfranco Zola vs. Wimbledon, 1997

Gianfranco Zola redefined the possible.

When he arrived at Chelsea in 1996, the Premier League was still mired in an era of excruciating English-ness. Although continental imports were beginning to change the game, grim blood and dour thunder still ruled these shores. But in signing the likes of Ruud Gullit and Gianluci Vialli, the Blues had begun to push back against this turgid landscape, and that movement found its climax in a £4.5m signing from Parma.

There are of course dozens of iconic moments from Zola’s career one might choose to highlight. The backheel against Norwich was his most audacious goal and that outside-the-boot-lob over Richard Wright the most effortlessly artistic. He once annihilated famed hardman Julian Dicks, then did it again, just to prove a point. Thanks to Zola’s brilliant chipped pass, Gus Poyet’s strike on opening day 1999 is probably the only time in footballing history in which a flying volley wasn’t the most beautiful part of a goal.

But if I’m going to have to pick one moment, it’s this:

You almost feel sorry for Dean Blackwell, whose footballing life had not prepared him to encounter a player like Zola. It’s tempting to frame Zola’s brilliance in terms like ‘wizardry’ and ‘magic’, but those sidestep the nature of his genius: he was simply ahead of his opponents in mind and body, able to do things they didn’t know were possible and to keep them off balance through stunning improvisation.

When Roberto Di Matteo’s pass came in, Blackwell was expecting Zola to continue his run into the left side of the area, and moved with him to cover. He was not expecting Zola to play a backheel to himself, because even now, after years of getting used to some of the slickest football on the planet, one doesn’t expect that sort of maneuver. In 1997, it was downright perverse.

In Blackwell’s defence, he reacted reasonably well. He didn’t end up on the ground, or chasing ghosts, or anything like that. But for the half-second it took him to realise what had happened to him — or, more accurately, what Gianfranco Zola did to him — he had lost enough ground to make the goal inevitable. Zola took another touch to set himself up and then smashed in at the near post.

Is this Zola at his best? Maybe not. But I think it’s at his most archetypical.

Gianfranco Zola is heir to Loki, Odysseus and Reynard. He is the eternal Trickster manifested on the football pitch, 5’4” of cunning and deceit.

And the worst part, at least for defenders, was that he was so [FUNNING] nice about it.

Chelsea Zola goal celeb Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

WAGNH’s Best and Most Beautifulest Chelsea Goals Draft 2020:

No. 13: Gianfranco Zola vs. Wimbledon, 1997

No. 14: Arjen Robben vs. Norwich City, 2004
No. 15: Claude Makélélé vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2006
No. 16: Oscar vs. Juventus, 2012
No.17: Bethany England vs. Birmingham City, 2019
No.18: Demba Ba vs. Manchester United, 2013
No.19: André Schürrle vs. Burnley, 2014
No.20: Alex vs. Liverpool, 2009

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