Gianfranco Zola: Maybe being a 'nice guy' has held me back in management - but how can you be different, I wouldn't be myself

EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea legend reveals all about his managerial style

Tom Sheen
Friday 22 May 2015 13:56

Currently out of work, Gianfranco Zola has said he will not "compromise" his nice guy personality for football management - even if he believes it may have held him back on occasion.

The Chelsea legend is currently out of management after reasonably successful spells at West Ham and Watford and a doomed reign at Cagliari.

Whilst Hammers fans took to his style of play, results on the pitch were mixed and after taking Watford to the 2013 play-off final, where they lost to Crystal Palace, Zola was sacked a few months later after a poor start to the next season.

During both reigns Zola, one of the nicest people in football, received some criticism for being too nice to his players, in start comparison to the disciplinarian ways of Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho.

But whilst the Italian, now 48, believes that the nice guy image may have damaged his chances with some clubs, he does not believe he has to change to be successful.

"How can you be different?," he tells The Independent.

"I wouldn't be myself. I wouldn't compromise my own personality for a job, even though I love the job.

"But if you ask players they will say they performed well because of the way I am, the way I handled and treated them. It's a matter of opinions."

Zola was a fans' favourite for his eye-pleasing style of play

Zola also admitted that taking the offer to go and help former club Cagliari - where he only lasted 10 games - was a gamble that didn't pay off.

"Going to coach Cagliari was a gamble, a difficult situation that I didn't create but I was asked to try to sort it out. It didn't go well and that didn't do me any favours because I lost the possibility to have a team in this country."

Zola has been linked with the Brentford job in recent weeks and added that he would ideally find a job in this country, not Italy or anywhere else in Europe.

"The idea would be to find a team in England. At the moment it is quiet and I will wait for an opportunity to come. Certainly the priority is in England.

"I should have [been a coach or an assistant] before," he adds, laughing. "I'm not rushing things, I'm very young. I'll wait until the right opportunity and if the right one doesn't come I will keep learning the game.

Zola led Watford to the play-off final in 2013

"Sometimes staying out and watching and following other situations is good for learning."

Zola admitted that the biggest thing he needs is time - a luxury he hasn't been afforded at any of the three clubs he has managed so far.

He said: "I think the ideal for me would be top establish my own style of playing, that's the way I always try to do things, West Ham first, then Watford.

"Then i went to Cagliari where I had a different situation, the team was in trouble, and they had their own style. That situation I tried to adapt and it worked for a while. Then I tried to get them to play to my own ideas, which was probably not the right moment, and the players weren't ready for that.

"It's very important to undefended the situation, the scenario, wherever you are and make the most out of it in order to buy some time and then established your own ideas. Because whether you want to play direct or possession or whatever, football takes time.

The Italian lasted just 10 games at Cagliari

"Sometimes you need to buy that time, when you are a young [in terms of experience] manager you have an idea and think 'I'm going to go for that', but the reality maybe different. And that's where the experience that you earn helps you to do the next job better.

"If I want to be different to what I am then I probably wouldn't be effective with the players. As long as I find a way to make myself effective for the team it's fine, whether I'm a nice guy or a sergeant, it doesn't matter, I have to find a way to be effective."

Barclays and their ambassador Gianfranco Zola are delighted to have given young Chelsea fan, and Spirit of the Game Hero Rachel Key, the opportunity to present the Barclays Premier League trophy to Chelsea this Sunday. To watch Rachel's story go to

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