• Gianfranco Zola was a special player who scored special goals

  • The much-loved Italian lit up Serie A and the Premier League across the Nineties

  • His long career at the top has ensured a considerable net worth

Born on the beautiful island of Sardinia on July 5th, 1966, Gianfranco Zola’s artistic brand of football was admired by one and all, especially supporters of the six clubs he created memorable goals, assists and moments for.

At each club the little forward was cherished, with Chelsea even doing him the honour of retiring his shirt number on leaving Stamford Bridge.

Prior to that, Zola made over 200 appearances in Serie A, for Napoli and Parma respectively. Again, at both clubs, he was venerated.

In Italy, he won a league title with Napoli and enjoyed European glory with Parma while his move to West London coincided with the Blues attaining lots of silverware.

According to our latest betting odds, Chelsea are in the running to win further trophies this season.

But it wasn’t simply about success with Zola. His rare gifts made him a joy to watch and subsequently he became one of the most popular players in Premier League history.

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Indeed, so highly is Zola regarded in his adopted country, he has been given an OBE and inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame.

All of which, across an illustrious career during a period when fortunes were poured into the game, has made Gianfranco Zola a very rich individual. Very few would claim he wasn’t worth every penny and Euro.

Football Career

There are a certain number of 90s footballers who are universally recalled with great fondness and Zola is certainly among them.

Coming to the fore at Napoli, as an understudy to Diego Maradona, the diminutive schemer would go on to inherit the Argentine’s fabled number 10 jersey in Sicily, scoring 32 goals in 105 appearances.

A £13m transfer to Parma in 1993 had him compete with Hristo Stoichkov for a starring role up front but eventually relocated to the left, the player worried about his standing within the international set-up.

For the Azzurri, Zola made only 35 outings, a surprising tally given his immense talent.

A move to ambitious Chelsea followed in the mid-Nineties, to a club on the up who were making a series of cosmopolitan signings.

In the capital, Zola exhibited his full range of magical qualities over seven seasons, helping his side win two FA Cups, a League Cup, and a European honour.

Twice he was voted the club’s Player of the Year while beyond the Bridge he was hugely admired for his vision, touch, and ability to invent a goal from seemingly nowhere.

A week before Chelsea were bought by Roman Abramovich, the striker left and wound down his career at Cagliari, winning promotion to the Italian top-flight in his swansong campaign.

How Much Is Gianfranco Zola Worth?

Zola is said to be worth a little north of £26m, a substantial sum that has partly been obtained from a consequent move into management, with West Ham, Watford and Birmingham the three biggest clubs he has taken charge of.

His latter days at Chelsea had the brilliant forward on £2m per year – a sharp rise from £700,000 a year on arriving seven years earlier - and to illustrate Zola’s integrity he was offered a third more to stay but had already given Cagliari his word to move there in 2003 on a significantly reduced wage of £400,000.

In 2008, a £1.9m per year package tempted the recently retired player into management at West Ham and his time in the dug out further demonstrates Zola’s ethics, not complaining when he was forced to take a pay cut soon after.

He later chose to resign at Watford, thus depriving himself of a bumper pay-off.

It is a sense of decency that extends beyond his direct earnings from football, with the player hardly known for commercial tie-ins that many of his contemporaries found lucrative.

There was a long-standing boot deal with Mizuno, a Japanese sports brand but elsewhere the quietly-spoken and humble Zola was not one for putting his name to various products.

Instead, he made a left-turn post-retirement and founded his own company, a high-end ice cream business that has stores across London and Milan.

Each café sells a range of gelato in different flavours with a recent branch opening just a mile from his beloved Stamford Bridge.


On the pitch, Zola was a wizard, a favourite of the live betting community due to his unerring ability to turn a game on its head from a drop of his shoulder. A superstar no less.

Off it however, he remained throughout his high-profile career and is still to this day, a private family man, happily married to Franca, and raising three children.

Their eldest child, Andrea, followed in his father’s footsteps only as a very different kind of player, specializing as a full-back for Greys Athletic at non-league level after coming through West Ham’s famed academy.

Franca meanwhile was a constant source of support to Zola throughout his playing career, often attending games and accompanying him to events.

The forward has joked in the past that she would dispute his nice guy reputation with a tendency to be grumpy after defeats.

Moments of Magic

Nicknamed ‘Magic Box’ by his adoring fans in West London, Zola was capable of pulling off the spectacular, even defying belief at times with goals that live long in the memory.

One such goal was an impish back-heel from a corner against Norwich in 2002, a mesmerizing piece of skill that has been pored over on YouTube close to half a million times.

The poor Canaries were on the receiving end that day and face hardship again with our Premier League predictions tipping them for the drop.

Another, at Manchester United’s expense in 1997 had him dancing through the Reds defence, leaving them bamboozled.

But it was free-kicks that were Zola’s real forte, a talent honed by spending countless hours after training with the legendary Maradona at Napoli.

Only four other players have scored more free-kicks in Serie A history while at Chelsea he routinely rippled the net after finding a trajectory over or around a wall.

One commentator put it best when describing one of his 59 Premier League strikes – Gianfranco Zola was a special player who scored special goals.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 18th April 2022

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.