A ‘beautiful soul’ who leaves an ‘unfillable void’: Gianluca Vialli dies at 58

A ‘beautiful soul’ who leaves an ‘unfillable void’: Gianluca Vialli dies at 58

A ‘beautiful soul’ who leaves an ‘unfillable void’: Gianluca Vialli dies at 58

Tributes have been paid to former Italy, Juventus and Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli, who has passed away at the age of 58 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

The Italian Football Federation said Vialli’s death left an “unfillable void”, while Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali described a “horrific day” and vowed Vialli’s legacy would be “written forever”. in the club.

Vialli, who enjoyed great success as a manager at Stamford Bridge following his glittering playing career, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and announced he had been cleared in 2020 after treatment at Royal Marsden Hospital. in London.

He was re-diagnosed with the disease in 2021 and announced last month that he had stepped down as head of the Italian national team delegation.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported before Christmas that his 87-year-old mother Maria Teresa and brother Nino had traveled to be with Vialli in a London hospital.

During a 16-year playing career in Italy, Vialli won every major trophie on offer, including Serie A titles with Sampdoria (1991) and Juventus (1995), the Champions League with the latter in 1996. , the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Cup. ‘ Bowl. He was also a four-time Coppa Italia winner.

He scored 16 goals in 59 appearances for Italy, featured in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and helped the Azzurri finish third in the latter, while his £12.5m transfer from Sampdoria to the Juventus in 1992 was a world record fee at the time.

Vialli joined Chelsea in 1996 and helped them win the FA Cup at the end of his first season before guiding the London club to both League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup glory as player-manager that season. Next.

The Italian Football Federation said that all matches under its jurisdiction this weekend would be preceded by a minute’s silence in Vialli’s honour.

Federation President Gabriele Gravina said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened. I waited until the end that he could perform another miracle, but I take comfort in the knowledge that what he did for Italian football and the blue jersey will never be forgotten. .

“Gianluca was a wonderful person and he leaves an irreplaceable void, in the national team and in all those who appreciated his extraordinary human qualities.”

In a short statement posted on Twitter, Boehly and Eghbali wrote: “This is truly a terrible day for Chelsea Football Club. The legend of Gianluca will live on at Stamford Bridge.

“His impact as a player, coach and most importantly as a person will forever be written in the history of our club. We send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.”

In a statement posted on their official website, Juventus described an “intense loss” and added: “We loved everything about you, absolutely everything: your smile, being a star and a leader at the same time, on the pitch and in your clothing. .room, your adorable swashbuckling ways, your culture, your class, which you showed until the last day with the black and white stripes.”

The FA said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of Vialli’s death, while Watford, whom Vialli briefly managed between 2001 and 2002, tweeted: “All of us at Watford FC are saddened to learn of the passing of our former manager Gianluca Vialli.” .

Graeme Souness, who played alongside Vialli at Sampdoria, was visibly emotional as he recalled his relationship with his former Sky Sports teammate.

“I can’t tell you what a nice guy he was,” Souness said. “Forget football, he was just a beautiful soul. He was just a really nice human being.

Makita football Vialli Sampdoria

Gianluca Vialli made a name for himself with Serie A Sampdoria (Malcolm Croft/PA Archive)

“He was just fabulous to have around. He was such a fun guy, full of mischief, a wonderful footballer and a warm human being.

Former Chelsea captain John Terry, whose first senior appearance came with Vialli in a League Cup tie against Aston Villa in 1998, tweeted: “Heartbroken. RIP Lucas. A true LEGEND and a great man. I will always be grateful for giving me my debut.”

And former Blues manager José Mourinho observed a moment of silence in tribute to Vialli before Roma training on Friday, after telling his team: “I knew him very well, those of you who have been part of the configuration of Italy even knew him”. better than me.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust described Vialli as a “fundamental pillar” at the start of a trophy-laden era at Stamford Bridge.

“The CST is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli,” a statement read.

“He was a fundamental pillar in restoring the club’s identity and led the club to win the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

“Even after his time at Chelsea, Gianluca was Chelsea through and through. He was a frequent visitor to Stamford Bridge and was loved by everyone at our football club.”

Scotland manager Steve Clarke, Vialli’s former teammate at Stamford Bridge, said: “It was a pleasure to play alongside Gianluca and an even greater pleasure to have known him.

His achievements speak for themselves not only at Chelsea, where he will be forever revered and remembered, but throughout his decorated career.

He was one of the best forwards of his generation and of any other. Above all, he was a good man.

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