The Dugout - Zola: Chelsea need to wait for Torres

Fri, 18 Mar 09:10:00 2011

Chelsea legend and former West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola believes the Blues can get the best out of struggling striker Fernando Torres, although they may have to wait until next season.

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So what have you been up to since you left West Ham?

I've been spending a lot of time with the family, and I've just focused on that. I've also still been working on my UEFA pro licence and watching a lot of games. I've decided to spend this time trying to improve on what I did at West Ham and get ready for the next adventure.

So when you say you're still working on the pro licence, is that something you were working on at West Ham as well?

Yes, it was part of the plan. When I joined West Ham I needed permission to manage from the Premier League and an agreement was made with the Premier League that I had to complete the UEFA pro licence within a certain amount of time.

Looking back at your time as West Ham manager, how do you reflect on your time there?

When I first joined the club, despite a difficult time at the beginning, we managed to find the right balance. We found a way, and everybody was performing at his best. The second year my plan was to try and build on what we'd done the year before. Unfortunately things didn't work out like that. The West Ham fans were amazingly passionate and I am very proud to have managed the club.

How would you describe your style as a manager, in terms of how you treat your players and the kind of football you like to play?

I'm a manager who tries to make sure his team enjoys the football that they play. I believe that every single player plays more than anything for the fun of it, for the pleasure that they take from playing football. So I try to create an environment where the players are enjoying what they are doing and therefore they give their best. That's my philosophy. That's what I try to do all the time.

You were a creative forward who tried to play attacking football, but not all managers are like that. A lot of managers who were strikers are defensive coaches or the other way around. Why do you think that is?

It's just a philosophy, you know. Some people think they can give their best by thinking 'how can I score a goal', others think they can give their best by thinking how they can stop the opposition from playing. It's just a matter of how your mind works. There's no explanation, and I don't think one is better than the other. You have to choose the one that suits you best.

Are you ready to come back into management now? Have you had enough time off?

Oh yeah, I'm nearly ready but I think that I am going to go on until the end of the season as I am and then after that I'll consider any offers.

What sort of job would you be interested in taking? Would you consider going down a division? Or going back to Italy, or another country in Europe?

I'm happy to see what comes up. At the moment for me it's particularly important to finish my UEFA pro licence and to keep studying football. Once that's done then I'll look at my options. But I'm not fussy; to me a job is a job. Obviously if I can manage in England then that would be really great but otherwise I’ll be prepared to go somewhere else.

On to your playing career now, and your time at Chelsea. How did it feel when you were voted the club's greatest ever player?

When you play football you enjoy what you're doing, but you also want to make an impression. When you become the most important player for a team, and that team is Chelsea, it's something unbelievable. So I was really proud. I think I worked very hard on my game throughout my years, and to achieve such a thing paid me back for every sacrifice I ever made in my career. It was a fantastic feeling.

Your time at the club came to an end just as Roman Abramovich was taking over and the club changed dramatically. How much of an exciting time was that for the club? Were you there when the crossover happened?

When I was at Chelsea it was a great time. People enjoyed the football we were playing, we won some trophies, we missed out on some others, but it was a fantastic time. When Roman Abramovich took over he took the club to a different level and a completely different dimension. He invested a lot and I think he's done a good job. Obviously I would have wanted to be part of such a winning team, but at the same time I was pleased because I had a great time with my team-mates and we had fun and we won things. But I was pleased that the club was going to a different level. You know, I played for Chelsea, but I'm also a supporter of Chelsea so to see the club doing so well was very good.

Obviously Chelsea started the season as champions and FA Cup winners, and had a fantastic start to this season. Why do you think they've dropped back in the title race this season?

To be honest they've lost important players throughout the season, like John Terry and Frank Lampard to injury and Didier Drogba who had had malaria for several months. So to think that you have a team that is missing three such important players, that doesn't help the situation. In previous years Chelsea had a bigger squad, they had so many players, but this year I think they've reduced the squad and so that could be one of the reasons. Obviously there must be something else, but from the outside it's very difficult to spot. Don't forget that we're talking about a team that in the last decade or so has been at the top all the time, and it didn't change very much. So something like this can happen. But there's still plenty of football to play and they can still make an impression. In my opinion they are still champions and can still do something yet.

As you say, they haven't changed much throughout this era, but they've now brought in two big money signings in Fernando Torres and David Luiz. Do you think that will be enough to make them title challengers again or do they need to strengthen in other areas?

Fernando Torres and David Luiz arrived late, you know at the end of January, so I think they'll become very, very effective players next season rather than this. Will they be enough? I don't know... I think maybe another player as well, in my opinion. Whoever is the manager next season, which I hope will be Ancelotti, will know exactly what to do. Chelsea will be competitive next year, no doubt about that. Whether they'll change more players or not, I don't know.

Are you confident that Torres can find his best form in a Chelsea shirt? As you said he only came in January, I guess it takes time for someone to settle when they come in the middle of a season, doesn't it?

With Torres it's not just about him, it's also about Chelsea finding a way to deploy him at his best. I believe that Torres is not playing his best football at the moment, but he's a striker that moves in a way that is beautiful. I've no doubt that he will be an effective player, and he will be a player who'll make Chelsea stronger.

Looking ahead to the weekend, Chelsea have a very important game against Manchester City which could help determine a Champions League place. Obviously Manchester City have come on a lot since they invested all that money - do you think they will be title contenders next season as well?

Yes, I have no doubt. It's just all about time. Manchester City will be there and be contending in the title race. They’ve been contending for the title this year already, but unfortunately for them it looks like it's not going to happen this season. All they need is time, though, because they have resources and will be using them to strengthen the team all the time.

Manchester City have an excellent record against Chelsea recently. Why do you think they do so well against them?

Well, I don't know, I didn't see their last few games that you've mentioned. But sometimes there's no reason, one team can have a good record against another without any explanation, it's just the way it is. City are on a good run now but I'm sure Chelsea have got a lot to play for and they'll want to end that run as quickly as possible. It won't be easy... but it'll be a good game. I'll be interested to see it.

Did you ever work with Mario Balotelli when you were with the Italian U21 squad? He seems to have all the elements to be a top player. How good do you think he can become?

Yes I did, I worked with him for a short spell. He can become as good as he wants. Everything is in place except the self-discipline. He is a skilful player, a strong player; he just needs to learn the self-discipline that is so important in achieving results.

All the biggest players I've seen in my career had talent, but they also had strong self-control which made them key players. I think Mario knows that, and he has to learn to use his passion for football in the best way.

Gianfranco Zola was speaking to Yahoo!’s ‘The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association