Gianfranco Zola’s highly anticipated return to Chelsea this summer could be seen purely as fan service, a semi-transparent attempt to appease fans after growing discontent.
After all, while he’s spoken highly of Maurizio Sarri, Zola’s never actually worked with the new Chelsea head coach and just a few months prior was very insistent that Chelsea should keep Antonio Conte (and that Conte should not choose to leave) if at all possible. Zola’s own management career is decidedly unimpressive, including a 2-in-24 win ratio in his last appointment at Birmingham City, and he had not been “just” a coach in over ten years, since his work with the Italian U21 national team. And yet here he was gladly becoming Sarri’s assistant 15 years after leaving the Blues to retire back home on Sardinia with Cagliari.
Or, in a less cynical worldview, Zola’s appointment could be seen as the club taking advantage of a tremendous resource in skills, football knowledge, and inspiration. Zola may have a 33 per cent career winning percentage, but he has 100 per cent awesomeness percentage, and that may count for something as he and the rest of the (still forming) coaching staff go about implementing Sarri’s vision and plans.
Also, he’s quite handy for a keepy-uppy challenge with Charly Musonda Jr. Could we ask for a better inspiration for young Charly, who’s gotten lost in the loan shuffle over the past couple seasons, than Mr. Magic Box himself?