Gianfranco Zola: The little big man revels in Chelsea's thrilling style of play


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The Independent Football

Before Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard there was Gianfranco Zola, the first and arguably still the best of Chelsea's diminutive foreign playmakers. Zola has plenty on his plate now transforming Championship club Watford but he has taken time out to savour his Stamford Bridge successors.

"It is very enjoyable the way Chelsea play right now," he said. "It is different to how Chelsea have played before but very good to watch and everybody is having fun. I hope it will work like this until the end of the season because they play football the right way."

Zola played alongside current Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo in the more rugged Premier League of the late 1990s, making more than 300 appearances and winning five domestic and European cup competitions.

Would he have preferred to play in the team now, which appears to be set up for players of his stature? "I wouldn't change it," he said. "It would be disrespectful to the players I played with. I enjoyed their company very much."

Would the likes of Mata, Oscar and Hazard have thrived in England a dozen years ago?

"I have no doubt; why not? When a good player is a good player he can adapt to any type of football in any time.

"They come through because they are good; they would still have come through 10 years ago."