July 18, 2018 / 10:46 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer-Zola returns to Chelsea as Sarri's assistant

LONDON (Reuters) - Former Chelsea striker Gianfranco Zola has returned to the club as assistant to new manager Maurizio Sarri, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: Football - West Ham United v Arsenal - FA Cup Third Round - Upton Park - 09/10 - 3/1/10 Gianfranco Zola - West Ham United Manager Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Andrew Couldridge/File Photo

Zola spent seven years at Stamford Bridge as a player, scoring 80 goals and helping the club win two FA Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, a UEFA Super Cup and one League Cup.

“For me it is an amazing thing,” Zola said in a club statement, which described the former Italy international as one of Chelsea’s “all-time greatest players”.

FILE PHOTO: Football - FA Barclaycard Premiership , Chelsea v Everton , 21/4/03 Chelsea's Gianfranco Zola celebrates after scoring the 4th goal for Chelsea Mandatory Credit:Action Images / Gareth Bumstead

“I am very willing to work hard because it is going to be a difficult challenge but I am pleased to be here, and to work hard with Maurizio to be successful.”

Fellow Italian Sarri was appointed last week to replace compatriot Antonio Conte, who was sacked, a year after leading the team to the title, after Chelsea failed to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Sarri, the 59-year-old former Napoli boss, had his first news conference on Wednesday in which he said he wanted to keep Belgian forward Eden Hazard at the club and improve him as a player.

Zola’s coaching career has seen him manage West Ham United, Watford and Italian side Cagliari.

He joined Birmingham in December 2016, but quit four months later after a poor run of results.

Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Frank Pingue

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