(L-R)) Pierre Villepreux, Gianfranco Zola, Stiliyan Petrov.
Greatness comes in a small package when it comes to the Italian football icon, who was born on this day 50 years ago. Despite standing at only 5ft 6 in, Zola’s ebullience and outstanding genius shone through during an incredible – and lengthy – playing career.
He shone as a free-roaming forward for clubs such as Napoli, Parma, Chelsea and his beloved Cagliari, his supreme talents not fully exemplified by his tally of just 35 international caps.
Zola came to prominence alongside Diego Maradona at Napoli, lifting the 1989/90 Serie A title. But ‘Magic Box’ left his biggest impression at Chelsea, for whom he was voted the club’s greatest ever player in 2003.
His incredible spell in London saw him score 80 goals in 309 appearances, the highlight coming with his winning goal in the 1997/98 Cup Winners’ Cup final.
1943: Pierre Villepreux, former France full-back who also coached Italy rugby union side from 1978-81 (73) .
1979: Stiliyan Petrov, ex-Bulgaria midfielder training once again with Aston Villa after cancer treatment (37).
1979: Amelie Mauresmo, French tennis star who won Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2006 (37).
1989: Dejan Lovren, Croatia and Liverpool centre-back who has 31 international caps (27).