Ricorrenze Azzurre

Happy Birthday to Alberto Gilardino and Gianfranco Zola!

Wishing the two Azzurri attackers all the very best, as the former turns 37 and the latter turns 53

Friday, July 5, 2019

Happy Birthday to Alberto Gilardino and Gianfranco Zola!

On 5 July 1982, the same day in which Paolo Rossi scored a World Cup hat-trick against Brazil, Alberto Gilardino was born in Biella. He made his Serie A debut for Piacenza when he was just 17-years-old before he then enjoyed an impressive spell with Parma that launched his career. A move to Milan soon materialised and with the Rossoneri he won the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Supercup and the Club World Cup.

A four-year stint with Fiorentina followed, where he achieved a goalscoring average of 0.5 per game. His goals helped Prandelli’s Viola side rise high in the domestic league standings and also experience Champions League football.

As for his time in the National Team set-up, Gilardino made history with the Under-21s. His 19 goals means that he is now the Azzurrini’s highest-ever goalscorer, while he also guided them to European Championship success in 2004. After winning Bronze at the Athens Olympics, Marcello Lippi handed him his senior debut during a match against Norway. He was then part of the Azzurri squad that became World Champions in 2006, adding to his international goalscoring tally during the tournament. He then took part in another World Cup and two editions of the Confederation Cup before making his 57th and final Italy appearance in October 2013 against Denmark.

His next club was Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League, while he then enjoyed spells with Palermo, Empoli and Pescara. Lastly, he joined Spezia in October 2017 before announcing his retirement in September 2018.

As for Gianfranco Zola, he was born in Oliena on 5 July 1966. As a youngster, he played for a number of different clubs in Sardinia before finally arriving in Serie A aged 23. Napoli were the club to acquire his services, pairing Zola up with Diego Armando Maradona – whose No.10 shirt he would soon inherit. During his first year with the Partenopei, he won the Scudetto before then succeeding in the Supercoppa Italiana a few months later. After four seasons at Napoli, he was then sold to Parma where he added to his personal honours’ list. After helping the Crociati lift the UEFA Supercup and the UEFA Cup, he was then snapped up by Chelsea. During his time in west London, Gianfranco became a Premier League icon, capturing hearts and even receiving an OBE. With the Blues, he won two FA Cups, one League Cup, one Community Shield, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one UEFA Supercup.

Despite success on the domestic stage, Zola never enjoyed a similar fate with the Azzurri. He represented Arrigo Sacchi’s Italy side during the 1994 World Cup, while he was also involved during the European Championship two years later. In 1997, Zola made his 35th and final appearance for the National Team, retiring with a tally of 10 goals.

He concluded his playing career at Cagliari, while coincidentally becoming an assistant to Pierluigi Casiraghi for Italy’s Under-21s. This was a vital coaching experience for Zola, who would then enjoy spells at West Ham United, Watford, Cagliari, Al-Arabi and Birmingham City. Most recently, he was Maurizio Sarri’s assistant at Chelsea, helping the team triumph in the Europa League.