Gianfranco Zola’s appointment as Cagliari manager could be a masterstroke that sees them stave off relegation to remain in Serie A.
The Chelsea legend succeeds Zdenek Zeman, who was sacked last week, and returns to the club where he spent the final two years of his playing career after previously enjoying a glittering seven-year spell in the Premier League with Chelsea.
And after previous managerial stints in English football with West Ham United and Watford, the Italian could thrive as a manager in his homeland and ensure that 2015 is a year to remember for all the right reasons.
The league table will not make pleasant reading for fans of the Italian minnows on Christmas day, with Cagliari loitering in 18th place and three points away from nearest rivals Atalanta.
Zeman had got the club off to a flier with an emphatic victory over Walter Mazzarri’s awful Inter Milan back in September, but they have won just once in the 12 games that have followed and now face a huge battle to stay in Italy’s top flight.
Article continues below
With a goal difference of minus eight they are in sore need of improvement at both ends of the pitch, and they face a huge game away at Giuseppe Iachini’s high-flying Palermo when the festive break comes to an end early next month.
Zola will be making his return to management for the first time since leaving Championship side Watford last year following a poor run of form that had left the Hornets facing up to life in League One.
However prior to that his reign had been a huge success and, had it not been for a Kevin Phillips goal for Crystal Palace in the 2013 play-off final, Vicarage Road would of hosted Premier League football for the first time since 2007.
They finished third that year, two points adrift of second-placed Hull City who were promoted along with Malkay Mackay’s Cardiff, but that defeat crushed their confidence and with the help of a transfer embargo they failed to hit the same heights when the new season rolled around.
He also ruled the roost at Upton Park with West Ham United for a short while after succeeding Alan Curbishley as manager in 2008, but despite keeping the Londoners in the top flight and coaxing the best form from Scott Parker he was replaced by Avram Grant shortly after the end of the 2009/2010 season.
Serie A dream
Zola was one of the greatest foreign imports that the Premier League has ever seen, and his very presence will give his new set of players a huge boost.
Despite struggling for consistency, the 49-year-old has shown glimpses of his managerial promise and fans will be hoping for his cheeky smile to be positively beaming by the time the season ends in May.