Thursday , February 9 2023

Italy legend Gianluca Vialli passes away!

Italian football is mourning former Sampdoria Genoa, Juventus FC and Chelsea FC striker Gianluca Vialli, who has died at the age of 58 after a long illness.

A prolific goalscorer in his 19-year playing career, Vialli played 673 matches in Serie A, the English Premier League and European club competitions, scoring 259 goals. He also made 59 appearances for Italy, finding the net 16 times.

Among the first to pay homage to Vialli was Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina. “I am deeply saddened,” he said. “I hoped until the very end that he would be able to perform another miracle, yet I am comforted by the certainty that what he did for Italian football and the Azzurri will never be forgotten.

“Gianluca was a wonderful person and leaves a void that cannot be filled, in the national team and in all those who have appreciated his extraordinary human qualities.” The FIGC has announced a minute’s silence will be observed before all football matches scheduled for next weekend in Italy.

Vialli had recently announced his decision to temporarily leave his role on Italy’s staff, led by his former Sampdoria team-mate and national team coach Roberto Mancini. The two friends helped the Azzurri to win UEFA EURO 2020 in the summer of 2021.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: “A man who leaves us when he is still young is always a reason to feel great sadness. All members of the football family will feel real pain and a sense of profound dismay.

“Gianluca was more than a champion; he was kind, measured, respectful and above all courageous, in life even more than on the pitch, as he has taught us in recent years through his dignified fight against his illness.

“We will always remember his radiance at the many trophies that he won, right up to the final image when he embraced his friend Roberto Mancini in the middle of the pitch at Wembley – a moment of joyful emotion at the most beautiful and brilliant of all triumphs. He will be greatly missed.”

Former Milan player and current UEFA technical director and chief of football Zvonimir Boban added: “Gianluca was a fantastic player on the pitch, but more than that he was a wonderful person, who made everyone around him smile with his infectious personality.

“He was always full of joy and had a real love of life, which was so evident last summer as he helped Italy and his great friend Roberto Mancini to become European champions. My thoughts now are with Luca’s family and friends. Everybody in football will miss him enormously.”

Vialli started his club career at Cremonese in 1980 before joining Sampdoria in 1984. During his spell with the Blucerchiati, he scored 85 Serie A goals, won the Coppa Italia three times, the Italian domestic title and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989/90. He also played in the Sampdoria team that was defeated by Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final.

Joining Juventus in 1992, Vialli lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy four years later when the Bianconeri defeated Ajax on penalties in the final in Rome. During his time in Turin he also won the Coppa Italia, the Scudetto and the 1992/93 UEFA Cup, becoming one of what was then nine footballers to have won the three main European club competitions.

Alessandro Del Piero, a UEFA Champions League winner alongside Vialli with Juve, said: “Our captain. My captain. Forever.”

In 1996 Vialli joined Chelsea and became the English club’s player-manager in February 1998, continuing to coach the team after retiring as a footballer in 1999. While with the London side, he won the 1997/98 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the 1998 UEFA Super Cup, the English FA Cup twice and the English League Cup.

“This news hurts,” said former Italy and AC Milan defender Franco Baresi. “You were a giant on and off the pitch. You will be sorely missed.”

Fabio Capello added: “I remember the many times when the teams I coached played against him. He was important for his team, he had great character. He was a leader, and he showed that in facing his illness.”

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