Zola agrees to take West Ham job

By Simon Austin

Gianfranco Zola
Zola spent nearly seven years as a player at Chelsea

West Ham have agreed a three-year deal with Gianfranco Zola for the Italian to become the club’s new manager.

The former Chelsea striker, 42, held talks with the Hammers last week about succeeding Alan Curbishley, along with Roberto Donadoni and John Collins.

But, as revealed by BBC Sport, West Ham opted for Zola over the former Italy coach and ex-Hibernian boss, and he should be unveiled before the weekend.

“Gianfranco was our first choice,” a senior club source told BBC Sport.

“We were very comfortable with the three options we had – Zola, Donadoni and Collins – but Gianfranco came out on top.”

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West Ham interviewed the current Italy under-21 coach last week, while chief executive Scott Duxbury then travelled to Rome to talk to him on Sunday.

The 42-year-old is currently preparing Italy to face Croatia on Tuesday in their final qualifier for the European Under-21 Championship, which they need to win or draw to qualify for the tournament in Sweden.

West Ham believe the Italian, who played for Chelsea from 1996 to 2003, has the attributes to be a big success at Upton Park.

“It’s true that he has no experience of managing a club side, but he knows the Premier League very well,” the source added.

Zola interview on Inside Sport – April 2008

“His English is very good and he can talk about football with English players and inspire them.

“He has a record of developing young footballers, which is very important to us, and was obviously a world-class player.

“Experienced players like to have a manager they can respect as a footballer.”

And Chelsea and England captain John Terry suggested Zola would one day go on to manager the Blues.

“I’m sure one day he’ll be back at Chelsea working with us,” said Terry, speaking in Zagreb, ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier against Croatia.

“He’s got a little bit more experience after managing Italy’s Under-21 side so it’d be great for him to get more experience at West Ham and hopefully one day be Chelsea manager.”

The Hammers have moved impressively quickly to recruit a manager since Curbishley resigned last Wednesday.

They had been eager to interview Croatia coach Slaven Bilic, but discounted the former West Ham defender because he wanted to continue coaching his country part-time until the end of the year.

And Getafe boss Michael Laudrup joined Spartak Moscow before the Hammers were able to speak to him.

It is important for me to feel that I have the full support of the club
Roberto Donadoni

Collins, who has managed Hibernian, also impressed in interviews, while former Italy boss Donadoni had been among the front runners before withdrawing his application on Tuesday.

“I would like to thank West Ham for approaching and speaking with me,” said Donadoni.

“I welcomed the opportunity of speaking with such a prominent Premier League club and of course, the opportunity of coming to the English Premier League.

“However, it does appear that the board have not yet, after some time, come to an agreement and a conclusion on who the successful candidate should be.

“It is important for me to feel that I have the full support of the club and I have therefore taken the decision to withdraw myself from the candidate shortlist for the club.”

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