Stylish Zola arrives at Upton Park
West Ham fans may take some time to warm to a man who is held in such high regard by their bitter rivals at Chelsea; but if Gianfranco Zola the manager is half as good as Zola the player they are in for a treat.
At 5 feet 6 he is tiny in stature but his huge talent gives him presence, surely more than enough to ensure that those in West Ham's dressing room pay attention.
I was lucky enough to be commentating on the Italian's first game for Chelsea, a soggy afternoon at Blackburn's Ewood Park. Zola shone like a firefly in the gloom, his darting movements impossible to predict.
I remember going to Chelsea's training ground, then a couple of muddy fields near Heathrow, to do some interviews for Capital Radio. Zola was practising free-kicks, his technique learnt from Diego Maradona on Napoli's training ground years before. With a young goalkeeper on each post, and a wall in position in front of the ball, again and again he left the keepers motionless and those watching speechless. Genius at work.
November 1996 was when Zola arrived at Stamford Bridge to become the lynchpin of the emergent club.
In the mid-nineties Stamford Bridge was a very different place to the steel and glass edifice it is now. Starved of success, an average Chelsea crowd at the start of the Premier League era in 1992/93 was less than 19,000. The Bridge itself was a mess, hopelessly ill-equipped in the post-Hillsborough world of English football. The low oval terrace of the Shed may have a forbidding place but it was also crumbling. And then there was the old West Stand, featuring long blue-painted haemorrhoid-inducing concrete slabs laughably described as seating.
Hoddle had a name on the continent and therefore pulling power; soon Chelsea did too.
They made the semi-finals of that competition and within a month had signed perhaps the biggest name going, Ruud Gullit.
Even though Hoddle left to take over the England job from Terry Venables, the ball was now well and truly rolling. With Gullit as the new manager, Chelsea could attract Gianluca Vialli, and then Zola who became surely one of the best ever imports to our game.
Eventually, of course, the ball rolled all the way to Moscow and to the attention of Roman Abramovich.
Each name had its part to play in the Chelsea story, and each deserves the gratitude of today's Chelsea fans; but none commands affection quite like Zola.
Off the pitch he struck me as modest, calm and quietly spoken. A man of his word too; he promised his home town team Cagliari that he would finish his career with them and he did - despite the fact that Roman Abramovich's first act as Chelsea owner was to offer him huge incentives to return.
His lack of experience makes him a bold appointment but, as he moves back to England, Zola will not be short of well-wishers. West Ham fans understand the value of football played with style, few have ever played the game with more style than their new manager.