January 6 – The football world has lost yet another iconic and hugely popular figure with tributes pouring in following the death at just 58 of former Italian great Gianluca Vialli.
Vialli, who enjoyed a stellar career with Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea and earned 59 caps for Italy, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017.
He was given the all-clear a year later only to reveal in December 2021 that the disease had returned.
With his condition worsening, Vialli, renowned as a genuinely warm human being, announced last month that he was temporarily stepping down from his role as the delegation chief for Italy’s national team.
“We thank the many who have supported him over the years with their affection. His memory and example will live in our hearts forever,” Vialli’s family was quoted as saying in a statement by the Italian news agency ANSA.
Vialli made his name in eight seasons at Sampdoria, winning the Serie A title and European Cup Winners’ Cup before joining Juventus in 1992 for a then world record €16.5 million. He won the Champions League with Juventus before joining Chelsea in 1996 and becoming player-manager in 1998.
All three clubs posted messages of condolence as did Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Italy’s football federation (FIGC) said a minute’s silence would be observed at all matches this weekend.
Federation president Gabriele Gravina said he was “deeply saddened” and noted that Vialli’s sporting success was matched by his “extraordinary human qualities.”
“I know that I probably will not die of old age, I hope to live as long as possible, but I feel much more fragile than before,” Vialli had said in a documentary aired in March 2022.
Vialli famously helped national coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend, lead Italy to the Euro 2020 title, delayed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
As a club manager, he also led Chelsea to the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup two years later.
“Such an intense sense of loss,” Juventus said in a statement. “We have always been with you, Gianluca. Ever since you arrived in 1992, when it was love at first sight…we loved everything about you, absolutely everything — your smile, your being a star and leader at the same time, on the pitch and in the dressing room, your adorable swashbuckling ways, your culture, your class, which you showed until the last day in the black and white stripes.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org