Born in Oliena, Zola signed his first professional contract with Sardinian team Nuorese in 1984. In 1986, he moved to the Sassari-based team Torres, where he spent three seasons. During his playing career, Zola was primarily used as a supporting striker or as a playmaking attacking midfielder, due to his ability to create chances and provide assists for teammates; he was also deployed as a winger or even as a striker on occasion. A creative and technically gifted player, Zola was renowned for his ball control, his skilful dribbling ability, vision, and passing ability, as well as his tactical intelligence, ability to read the game and eye for goal. Although he was not physically imposing, his small stature and low centre of gravity gave him good balance and allowed him to be extremely quick and agile, which, along with his acceleration and ball skills, enabled him to change direction with the ball very quickly in tight spaces, and allowed him to beat defenders with feints in one on one situations. Zola was also a penalty kick and set piece specialist, who was particularly renowned for his accuracy at bending direct free-kicks. Due to his creativity and skill, Zola was given the nickname “Magic box” whilst playing at Chelsea. Zola is regarded as one of the best Italian creative forwards of his generation, and as one of the best players in Premier League history. In his playing career, Zola played 628 games and scored 193 goals. Despite speculation he would play on in the 2005–06 season, Zola decided to leave the game just a week before he turned 39, and took a job as an Italian football pundit.