Why new Birmingham boss Zola is no longer football’s Mr Nice Guy
NICEST man in football? Not anymore. Gianfranco Zola may have promised to give Gary Rowett a call, but it won’t change perceptions that he shafted his predecessor.
Just six hours elapsed between Rowett’s shock dismissal and Zola’s unveiling as Birmingham City’s new manager.
“I feel for Gary but you have to be professional,” said the Italian. “I know how it feels to be in that situation, but I didn’t blame the man who came after me.”
In truth, arch-pragmatist Rowett will likely harbour similar sentiments.
Trillion Trophy Asia, the club’s new Chinese owners, are the true villains of the piece, having initially spoken to Zola several weeks ago.
Yet it is sad sign of the times that Zola, known for his decency and integrity, has been forced to stoop so low.
This is a man who, having promised to join home-town club Cagliari after seven years at Chelsea, spurned the Roman Abramovich millions to keep his word.
Who once said his greatest satisfaction was not the medals and caps won but “the way people respect me”.
Who only last year said: “I wouldn’t compromise my own personality for a job.”
It must have hurt him deeply to defend himself against accusations of back-stabbing, but what choice did he have?
The Italian’s reputation may undoubtedly be damaged, but he is merely a nice man fighting for life in a very nasty industry.