It's official: West Ham get Zola
Italian under-21 coach and Chelsea legend joins the Hammers.
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2008 16:53 GMT

Will West Ham fans welcome the talismanic ex-player of their London rivals? [GALLO/GETTY]

Gianfranco Zola has been officially named as the new manager of English Premier League club West Ham United following a week of speculation.

The 42-year-old former Chelsea and Italy forward takes over from Alan Curbishley, who resigned a week ago because of too much board interference.

West Ham said Zola, who signed a three-year contract, was the unanimous choice of the board who had drawn up a list of "high calibre" candidates.

Director of Football Gianluca Nani was instrumental in securing Zola [GALLO/GETTY]
Great opportunity

"I am very delighted, it's a great honour to be given such an important job," Zola said at a news conference at West Ham's Upton Park Stadium.

"I thank the board for choosing me and (director of football) Gianluca Nani for supporting me."

Zola is expected to get his first taste of action against Newcastle United in 10 days' time with Kevin Keen taking charge of the first team in Saturday's league visit to West Bromwich Albion.

The Sardinian, who has been in charge of Italy's under-21 team with Pierluigi Casiraghi, was preferred to former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni whom West Ham said they also interviewed for the managerial position.

Lack of experience

Zola's appointment had been widely expected despite his lack of experience in club management.

"I know I'm not the most experienced manager but I've been in football for 20 years and know what I'm talking about," Zola, a cult hero at Chelsea in more than 300 games for the club, said.

"I trust my knowledge of the game and believe the players will help me. I am confident everything will be alright."

Zola is West Ham's first non-British manager and was born in Sardinia in 1966.

In 1993 he joined Serie A side Parma, winning the UEFA Cup and the Italian Cup.

He was transferred to Premier League side Chelsea in 1996 after playing at Euro 1996 for Italy, missing a vital penalty against Germany as Italy failed to reach the knockout round.

He won the FA Cup in his first season and was named Football Writers Player of the Season.

Cult hero

His attacking wizardry and vision made him a cult hero at Stamford Bridge.

He went on to make more than 300 appearances for Chelsea, winning the FA Cup twice, the League Cup and the Cup Winners' Cup and the European SuperCup.

In 2006 Zola was named assistant coach of Italy's under-21s.

He helped Italy to the quarter-finals of the soccer tournament at the Beijing Olympics in August before suffering a 3-2 defeat by Belgium.

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