Gianfranco Zola takes the reins at Birmingham City

Chelsea playing legend returns to management in English football

Gianfranco Zola,

Gianfranco Zola. Picture by Lynne Cameron PA Wire/PA Images

Championship side Birmingham City have appointed former West Ham and Watford boss Gianfranco Zola as their new manager.

Gary Rowett was only sacked earlier on Wednesday despite a win over Ipswich last night taking them up to 7th in the table.

The Italian joins on a two-and-a-half-year contract, with his former Italy team-mate Pierluigi Casiraghi among those linking up with him in his backroom team.

"We are delighted to welcome Gianfranco and his backroom team to the club," director Panos Pavlakis told the club website.

"His pedigree, philosophy and ambition fits with what we would like to achieve as we move in a new direction.

"Gianfranco has a wealth of top-level experience as both manager and player and we are extremely excited about his appointment."

The former Chelsea star's last managerial posting was at Qatari football Al-Arabi during the 2015-16 season.

Prior to that, Zola had spent less than three months in charge at Serie A side Cagliari. After taking charge at the end of December 2014, he was then sacked at the start of March 2015.

His last spell in England was at Watford during the 2012-13 season.

Zola's Birmingham predecessor Rowett led the club to 10th in the Championship last season, repeating the feat from the previous season when he had joined in October 2014 at the time when the club were just above the relegation zone.