The Observer says Zola was sounded out about working alongside the manager Avram Grant but, after checking with friends at Stamford Bridge, elected not to involve himself with the Israeli's unpopular regime.
It is the second time Zola, currently joint coach of Italy's Under-21 team, has resisted the lure of Roman Abramovich's millions. In the summer of 2003 he refused to renege on an agreement to sign for hometown team Cagliari, ignoring the Russian's attempts to increase his salary generously to keep him at Stamford Bridge.
Though Zola is keen to coach in English football, he turned down the opportunity to return to Chelsea after consulting with former team-mates. He is understood to have been told that Grant has failed to win over much of a squad still upset by Jose Mourinho's enforced departure, and that it would not be wise to associate himself with a man whose training regime, team selection and close relationship with the owner have come under serious question.