Zola happy to take Al Arabi 'gamble'

Offers from unnamed clubs in England and Italy were not enough to persuade Gianfranco Zola against becoming Al Arabi manager.

Gianfranco Zola claims to have turned down managerial opportunities in England and Italy after being appointed as the manager of Al Arabi.

The former Parma, Chelsea and Italy star has agreed a two-year deal with the seven-time Qatari champions.

Zola previously managed West Ham and Watford in England, with limited success, and was sacked after only three months in charge of Cagliari last season before the Sardinian club suffered relegation from Serie A.

Nevertheless, the 49-year-old revealed that he turned his back on unspecified opportunities in both countries before opting for a role in Qatar, where he recently worked as a television pundit .

"I know I'm taking a big gamble by leaving behind offers from Italy and England and taking up a coaching position in Qatar," he told Doha Stadium Plus. "It's a calculated risk. I believe in myself, my staff and the Arabi management.

"I'm not a total stranger to Qatar either. I've good knowledge of the Qatar Stars League and its teams. I've a feeling we'll do well."

Al Arabi won five titles in the 1990s, but they have not lifted the top domestic prize since 1997.

Zola is happy with the quality of overseas players at his disposal, but feels improving the standard of homegrown talent will be key in returning the club to its former glories.

"I'm satisfied with our foreign players," he said. "Paulinho, Ashkan Dejagah and Rod Fanni are all strong.

"The real challenge is to improve the quality of local players. It’s key to our ability to win major titles in the long run. Foreign players can only help to a certain extent. My staff is experienced at developing raw talent. We can really make a difference."

Zola has brought in former international team-mate Pierluigi Casiraghi as assistant coach.