September 25, 2021

Zola recalls Maradona experience as he urges Chelsea’s young stars to embrace new signings

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The Blues legend is pleased to see Frank Lampard splashing the cash, with additions required in order for current stars to raise their game

Gianfranco Zola has compared Chelsea’s moves for Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner with his own experiences working alongside Maradona, with the Blues legend pointing out that better players are always required in order to raise collective standards.

When piecing together his own illustrious career, Zola found himself on the books at Napoli when an all-time great was acquired by the Serie A outfit.

Maradona arrived in 1984, two years before guiding Argentina to World Cup glory and Napoli to a couple of Italian top-flight titles, with the South American snapped up to inspire those around him.

He did just that, with Zola going on to become an icon in his own right, and Chelsea are hoping to see their summer signings make a similar impact in 2020-21.

Frank Lampard has snapped up Ziyech and Werner, with the promise of more arrivals to come, and those at Stamford Bridge are already being billed as potential challengers for the Premier League crown next season.

Zola told the Daily Mail of the role that fresh faces could play: “I would have not been the player I was if I didn’t train with Diego Maradona.

“He was so influential on every aspect of my game. I promise you — I would have been another Gianfranco Zola if I hadn’t trained and played with Maradona every day.

“I don’t think John Terry would have been the player he was if he hadn’t had Marcel Desailly or Frank Leboeuf in front of him with us at Chelsea.

“What makes you better is not playing every single game in a modest championship. What makes you better is playing 10 games in a very competitive league.

“Because of players like myself, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and so many others, the game in England is at such a high level.

“If you want to be involved you have to be as good. And then, if you are good enough, you will become very good.

“There is a common mistake people make. They say, ‘We need to play the young English boys’. Of course, but only if they are good.

“How can you measure that? If they are playing with good players and if they can fit into the level of the good players. That’s why, because of the level of the Premier League, England has so many talented players.”

Chelsea have shown considerable faith in home-grown stars during the 2019-20 campaign.

The likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Reece James and Billy Gilmour have flourished on a senior stage, with Zola now looking for the FA Cup finalists to take the next step and deliver tangible success.

He added: “Chelsea are doing well considering they have a lot of young players in the team and they lost a very influential player in Eden Hazard.

“Chelsea is a very demanding club. They need to be in the Champions League and they need to win trophies because that is what the club has been doing for some time.”

Lampard’s side are set to take in an FA Cup derby date with London rivals Arsenal at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.