Zola makes jaws drop over meal

Delighted: Manager Robert Duckworth with Gianfranco Zola

Delighted: Manager Robert Duckworth with Gianfranco Zola

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A world-famous football star made jaws drop when he popped into a Chorley restaurant for a meal.

Excited staff at Papa Luigis in Euxton were amazed when former West Ham manager and Chelsea legend, Gianfranco Zola, turned up recently for some bruschetta and drinks at the restaurant.

The Italian was in the region to help coach young football teams.

Papa Luigis’ manager, Robert Duckworth, said: “Everyone’s jaws just dropped when he walked in.

“He’s such a super star and the staff were over the moon about his visit. Customers were doing double-takes.”

Zola had been in Rochdale with a local coach, who wanted to treat the VIP to a slap-up meal at his favourite local restaurant.

They called in advance to book a table and Robert frantically began to tell his staff about the special guest’s arrival.

“Nobody believed me at first, they thought I was joking,” he laughed. “Our head chef, Marco Coni, only lived about 10km from Gianfranco in Sardinia before he moved to the UK, so it was a dream come true for him.

“He was acting like a little child, he was so excited. But he also felt very proud to be able to cook for his hero.

“Gianfranco ordered soft drinks, bruschetta and chicken in a mushroom sauce.”

Previous famous faces to grace the restaurant include former Preston North End manager Darren Ferguson, but Robert said Zola’s visit was ‘off the scale’. He added: “I saved him the best table in the middle of the restaurant, so he could see everything.

“We let him eat his meal in peace, and then asked for photos with him before he left. He signed a menu which we’re going to frame and put on the wall.”

Zola was in a group of five.

“He was a gentleman, and was very humble,” Robert said. “Marco told him that he used to live near him, which Gianfranco was really surprised about, because it’s a long way from Chorley.

“It was a privilege to have him here.”