Over seven seasons Gianfranco Zola captivated Chelsea supporters to the extent that he was twice made Player of the Year and in 2003 was voted as the club's greatest ever player, receiving 60% of the votes in a poll on Chelsea's official website.
He helped win four trophies and scored the winner in the 1998 European Cup Winners' Cup Final just seconds after coming on as substitute. In all Franco, scored 80 goals in 312 games, with many of them being spectacular efforts.
Goals that will live long in the memory include the mid-air back flick against Norwich City, an effort against Manchester United that left opposition goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel motionless and a brilliant turn and shot in the 1997 FA Cup semi-final win over Wimbledon.
Above all, Franco always played football as if he enjoyed it and was almost universally popular amongst opposition fans.
Zola did suffer a dip in form during the 2001/02 season but returned strongly the following season, scoring 16 times as we qualified for the Champions League. He scored his last goal for Chelsea on Easter Monday 2003 and in his final appearance came on for the last 20 minutes of the win over Liverpool that saw us claim fourth place. Zola's last act as a Chelsea player was to go on a mazy run past four bemused defenders.
A month later, he signed for his home island club Cagliari despite the offer of an improved contract by new ownerRoman Abramovich. Franco had given his word to the Sardinian side the day before the takeover and typically would not go back on the agreement.
Chelsea Football Club has been good at celebrating special anniversaries. The year 2005 saw us reach the major milestone of 100 years-old. What better way was there to mark the centenary than by becoming champions of England for the second time in our existence?
Our golden jubilee had been similarly honoured. The club won silverware in the 1960s, the 70s, the 90s and at the turn of the new millennium, but 1955 was the year we finished above all other teams in the League for the first time.
It was also Chelsea's earliest major trophy. The first five decades had seen the club develop into an integral part of sporting life in England's capital city with famous players and a large, often full stadium.
Chelsea were popular, but achievement fell a long way short of that now enjoyed by the current team, which began the second 100 years of Chelsea history as the best in the land and the biggest football story throughout the world.
Even if trophy success proved elusive in the first 50 years, the club had been set up for the big time from the moment Henry Augustus Mears had a change of heart one Sunday morning in the autumn of 1904.
Of all the decisions that have shaped the history of Chelsea FC, there can be none more crucial than the one this Edwardian businessman made that particular day.
Gus Mears was an enthusiast for a sport that had taken northern Britain by storm but had yet to take off in the capital in quite the same way. London at the turn of the century failed to provide a single team to the Football League First Division.
Mears had spotted the potential for a football club to play at an old athletics ground at Stamford Bridge, an open piece of land in west London. It was a ground he planned to massively redevelop.
But unforeseen problems had followed, as did a lucrative offer for the land. Mears was on the verge of selling up and abandoning his sporting dream.
Colleague Frederick Parker, an enthusiastic supporter of the football stadium project attempted to dissuade him but on the fateful Sunday morning, Parker was told he was wasting his time.
As the two walked on, without warning Mears' dog bit Parker, drawing blood and causing great pain, but only an amused reaction from Parker.
"You took that bite damn well," Mears announced before telling his accomplice he would now trust his judgement over others. "Meet me here at nine tomorrow and we'll get busy," he said. Stamford Bridge was alive once more.
Not that Chelsea FC was in the original plan. The finest sports stadium in London seemed a little out of place on the edge of well-heeled and arty Chelsea but as history shows, Mears had chosen well. The proximity to the vibrant centre of town made it perfect as a new venue for football.
Due to financial disagreement, nearby Fulham Football Club, already in existence declined an offer to abandon the less grand Craven Cottage and move in. So in contrast to the history of so many clubs, Mears decided to build a team for a stadium, rather than the other way round.
On March 10th 1905, a meeting convened opposite the stadium in a pub now called The Butcher's Hook. One item on the agenda was a name for the new club. Stamford Bridge FC, Kensington FC and intriguingly, London FC were all rejected. Chelsea FC was what it was to be - and the story had begun.
John Tait Robertson, a Scottish international was the first player/manager and a squad of respected players was signed, providing a league could be found to compete in.
The Southern League was the natural choice for our location but they were unwelcoming to these upstarts. Undaunted, Chelsea simply set our sights higher and went straight for the northern-dominated Football League.
On May 29th 1905, the Football League AGM dramatically elected us to the Second Division. Parker again proved persuasive as we became the first club ever to make the League without having kicked a ball.
Chelsea's home stadium is called Stamford Bridge and has a history as varied and unique as the team itself.
Stamford Bridge officially opened on 28 April 1877. For the first 28 years of its existence it was used almost exclusively by the London Athletic Club as an arena for athletics meetings and not for football at all.
In 1904 the ownership of the ground changed hands when Mr H A (Gus) Mears and his brother, Mr J T Mears, obtained the deeds, having previously acquired additional land (formerly a large market garden) with the aim of establishing a football team there on the now 12.5 acre site.
Stamford Bridge was designed by Archibald Leitch and initially included a 120 yard long stand on the East side which could hold 5000 spectators.
The other sides were all open in a vast bowl with thousands of tons of material excavated from the building of the underground railway provided high terracing on the West side.
The capacity was originally planned to be 100,000 and was the second largest in country behind Crystal Palace - the FA Cup final venue.
Initially the stadium was offered to Fulham FC to play there, they turned down the chance and so instead a new side, Chelsea Football Club, was born in 1905 and moved into the new Stamford Bridge stadium.
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