Where are they now? Chelsea's 1997 FA Cup winners
Dan Petrescu (midfield)
The abiding memory of Romanian Dan Petrescu’s FA Cup story in 1997 wasn’t actually the final, but the game that suddenly made us all take Chelsea seriously as contenders to lift the trophy.
Petrescu had an altercation with Robbie Fowler, who wasted little time in reminding him of the score by holding up two fingers
It was back in January and the fourth round when the Blues were trailing Liverpool 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. Petrescu had an altercation with Robbie Fowler, who wasted little time in reminding him of the score by holding up two fingers. And when half-time came, the Reds players were reportedly rubbing Chelsea noses in it as they walked down the tunnel, goading them with premature glory.
After the Blues completed an incredible post-interval comeback, crushing Liverpool as they waltzed their way to a 4-2 victory, Petrescu turned the tables and reminded Liverpool players of the score himself when he was fouled. Four fingers came up on one hand, with another two for Liverpool. He and Blues fans reveled in it.
Since his playing days ended in 2003, Petrescu has has indulged in a distinctly global management career which has taken him from Romania to Poland to Russia to Qatar to China. He's currently managing the Dubai club, Al-Nasr.
Gianfranco Zola (striker)
First there was Eric Cantona who dazzled Premier League audiences with his brilliance to convince us Johnny Foreigner could offer something to the English game that stretched beyond cliched good looks and an erotic accent. Then Gianfranco Zola entered the fray and the change was complete; suddenly Anglo-Saxons weren’t as sceptical of European neighbour players invading their island.
Zola’s influence at Chelsea was instant. Signed in November 1996 from Parma, he completely changed the way Gullit’s side played football. With stardust in his heels, he sprinkled it wherever he travelled to become a neutral’s favourite.
There was no arrogance or controversy, just a wonderful diminutive Italian whose purpose was to reinforce the beauty of football that Pele had once described.
Zola was incredible and his role in Chelsea’s 1997 cup run was significant. He scored one of the best goals the semi-finals has ever seen when slotting home against Wimbledon at Highbury, while he also grabbed the assist for Newton’s goal against Boro.
If Zola altered stereotypes as a player, he’s lived up to them since moving into management. The theory is that great players rarely make good managers and when we look at his track record since stepping into the dugout after retirement, Zola proves the point.
His most recent stint with Birmingham City saw him win just two matches (out of 24) before he resigned with the club fighting relegation at the back end of 2016/17.