Zola power takes award

European round-up

Chelsea's Italian maestro Gianfranco Zola has been voted the Footballer of the Year, completing a hat-trick of foreign winners of the Football Writers' coveted award in its 50th year.

The 30-year-old has made a stunning impact on the English game, including reaching the FA Cup final with Chelsea, and follows Germany's Jurgen Klinsmann for Tottenham in 1995 and the Frenchman Eric Cantonal for Manchester United last year in capturing the 350-strong vote.

Zola will be presented with the award - by Sir Stanley Matthews, the original recipient in 1948 - at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, in London, a week next Thursday just two days before Chelsea's Wembley showpiece against Middlesbrough.

Another pocket-sized overseas star, Middlesbrough's Brazilian Juninho, earned second place. Chelsea will hope there is a Wembley omen in that especially as another of their forwards, Wales's Mark Hughes, finished third, just one vote behind.

Zola won by a distance, polling twice the total number of votes gained by Juninho and Hughes. The top English player was Manchester United's David Beckham in fourth place.

A delighted Zola, who is fighting an injury-battle after being substituted with hamstring trouble in Italy's 3-0 World Cup win over Poland on Wednesday, said: "Every footballer wants to win a prize like this. It is a big honour for me and I feel very lucky. It is hard for me to explain with words what I am feeling. It is not easy to be voted Footballer of the Year when there are so many good players in England."

Chelsea's Dutch manager Ruud Gullit, the runner-up to Cantona last year, said: "I am pleased for Franco and pleased for the club. Let's hope he gets a Wembley winners' medal to go with this trophy."

Zola will be remembered most this year for his winning goal for Italy in the World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley.

Frans Thijssen the former Ipswich and Holland international who won the FWA award in 1981 will fly in from Malmo where he is now coaching to join the football writers' 50th anniversary celebrations. And 14 other previous winners including Gary Lineker (1986 and 1992), Bobby Charlton and Pat Jennings will honour Zola at a gala dinner.

Sir Stanley Matthews, who won the award for a second time in 1963, is one of 29 Englishmen to have collected it. There have been nine Scottish winners, four from Northern Ireland, two each from Wales and Germany and one apiece from the Republic of Ireland, Holland and France.

Now Zola, who joined Chelsea in a pounds 4.5m move from Serie A team Parma in November, becomes the first from Italy to win, underlining the impact of overseas players on the British game.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea