Legendary Maradona was my inspiration – Zola

Gianfranco Zola has hailed the impact Diego Maradona had on his career when the two played together at Napoli.

Zola switched to the Naples club in 1989, where Maradona – a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986 – had already been for five years.

The duo were part of Napoli’s 1989-90 Serie A-winning squad and Zola says he benefitted from playing alongside a player he regards as the greatest of all time.

“The memories obviously of playing with Maradona are fantastic memories, he’s probably the most important part of my career,” former Chelsea forward Zola told Omnisport.

“When I was making myself known I learnt a lot from him. I definitely regard him as the greatest, although it’s difficult to say that and also unfair because there are players from different eras that have been so important and Maradona was one of them, but certainly he was an unbelievable player and I’m so glad I met him.”

The debate over who should be labelled the best ever generally involves Maradona and Pele being pitted against the modern-day stars of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Zola, now head coach at Al Arabi in Qatar, feels Maradona’s feats can comfortably match up to those being achieved by the Barcelona and Real Madrid forwards.

He added: “If you look at the standards that Messi and Ronaldo are setting at the moment, they are unbelievable standards, but I think it’s what Maradona did in his time was the same, exceptional.

“It’s very difficult and unfair probably to compare players from different eras, because they were able to reach excellence in their time and they have to be rewarded for that.

“I must say that Maradona was amazing, like Messi and Ronaldo they are now.”

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