The Italian, whose goal defeated England in the World Cup qualifier, is joined in the final six by Alan Shearer, who admitted yesterday that his vote had been cast for Zola.
"I voted for him even though he did beat us at Wembley. He's a tremendous player, he's small but he's strong on the ball and has two great feet. He's come in from another country, which isn't easy, and taken everything in his stride."
Shearer chose David Beckham as his Young Player of the Year. Beckham is actually nominated in both categories and is joined by team-mates Roy Keane, in the senior award, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the junior category.
Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, said: "It is nice to be recognised by your fellow professionals in this way. These are the awards that have a special meaning for players because it is they who make the final choice.''
PFA PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nominations: David Beckham, Roy Keane (both Manchester United), Steve McManaman (Liverpool), Alan Shearer (Newcastle), Ian Wright (Arsenal), Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea). Young Player of the Year: David Beckham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (both Manchester United), Robbie Fowler (Liverpool), Emile Heskey (Leicester), Chris Perry (Wimbledon), Patrick Vieira (Arsenal). (Awards to be announced on Sunday, 13 April).Reuse content