Zola: Inside the magic box
Currently on duty as a coach with the Italian Olympic squad in China, Gianfranco Zola sat down at the Azzurrini's team hotel to conduct a different kind of interview with FIFA.com. It wasn't us asking the questions - it was you.
We received hundreds, if not thousands for the charismatic Italian, who was voted as Chelsea's greatest-ever player. In the end, we selected a handful of questions which we felt would provide an entertaining overview on the career of the man the press and public called the magic box.
leitomagno: What were the high and low points of your career?
Well, the low point was my sending off in USA 94 and the high point was winning my first FA Cup with Chelsea at Wembley Stadium and scoring the winning goal against England, also at Wembley - that was beautiful for me.
TATO91: When you were a kid, did you really believe you could become one of the best football players in your country?
Not really. I started playing football because I loved the game and I wanted to become a better player. I was lucky enough to be able to learn from players like Maradona, because I wanted to copy their style and emulate their achievements. It was a dream. I had to work very hard, but I got good results.
chuygaytan: How did it feel to play next to Diego Maradona? Did that ever intimidate you?
No, not at all. I think his influence was key to my success. I always looked up to him and I always tried to take things from his game and put it in my own. That was perfect for me. He was the best player around and I was lucky to be there with him.
Tino81: What's your favourite memory of Maradona?
Maradona always used to keep the No10 shirt for himself. However, once we played an Italian Cup game in Pisa and so I went to take the No9 shirt, but Maradona brought the No10 shirt over to me. He told me that he wanted to wear the No9 to pay homage to his friend Careca, saying he wanted to play once with that number, but I later found out that he gave it to me for the experience. I was very flattered. That was a great gesture. It gave me a lot of confidence.
Beppe2006: You were one of the first Italian players to leave for a big team in England. Was Vialli's presence decisive in that choice?
Obviously, having the two Italian players in the team was a factor in my decision, but when Chelsea came to me - it was the right opportunity.
Cfc4eva: In the Chelsea dressing room there were a lot of characters at the time. Who was the biggest - and why?
I have a lot of choices! But it must be Dennis Wise. We had so many foreign players in the team, but the core of the side was English. He was the captain and a very influential player for the other lads. He kept everyone together.
Hakimyan: You played in both Premier League and Serie A. Which one was better for you and why?
It's very difficult to say. In the 90s the Italian league was the best in the world and all the best players were coming to play there. Then we had a few problems, not only in terms of finances, but also the spirit of the game. When I arrived at Chelsea, English football was growing up. It was getting better and better thanks to the influx of foreign players. They were two different experiences.
London_Lad: Do you think that playing in England affected how often you were picked for Italy?
It certainly didn't help. But it's OK. When I decided to go to England, I knew that I might have problems with the national team. But for me, Chelsea was my national team. I cannot complain.
Calcio1972: Is this why you think you were not present at the 1998 FIFA World Cup?
I don't know, the competition was very strong as well, because I had players like Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero doing very well in my position. It might have done, but it might not have done.
Guineecalcio: Who was the best Italian player of your generation?
There's a lot of competition. Baggio is the first name that springs to mind, but I must also mention Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi who were great players.
Arsenal94360: Would you like to have played in the current Chelsea team?
You always would like to be part of a winning team, but I feel very lucky to be part of the previous group. We had a great, great spirit among us all and although we didn't win the league, we enjoyed our football so much. I belonged to that team.
glasses: Why did you decide to end your career at Cagliari?
It was my dream that after some great experiences all over the world, I would finish my career there - to give something back to the young players in the area. That's why I refused a lot of money to go and play somewhere else.
Ryuken: I know this question seems obvious, but what was your favourite goal?
The most spectacular goal was the back heel I scored against Norwich, but I liked the goal I scored against Juventus in my last season in Serie A - it was a header in the last minute of the game. I didn't get many with my head, I don't know why!
Isofacto1990: What are your expectations for the Italy national team at the Olympics and at South Africa 2010?
Here, my dream is that this team can play as well as they can, with joy. They are very good. We chose them for their quality, we didn't consider tactics, we just went with Italy's best young players. We hope that this will produce a high level of football which the fans will enjoy. Obviously, we hope that good results will be the consequence of our efforts and the quality of the players.
As for South Africa, I hope for the same thing. Football isn't just about results; it's about what you produce, and about entertaining the fans. That's the main thing. Once you do that, it's very rare that you don't get results, I'm sure that they're connected with one another.
FIFA.com: What question did you like the most?
The one about moving to Cagliari. It was a big decision, but something that I always wanted to do.