Vialli with cup after winnign trophies for Chelsea

Gianluca Vialli: Former Juventus, Sampdoria, Chelsea, and Italy striker dies aged 58

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Gianluca Vialli, who played 59 times for Italy, has died at the age 58. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 but said in April 2020 he had been given the all-clear. Vialli was re-diagnosed in 2021.

Gianluca Vialli has died aged 58 from pancreatic cancer. “Gianluca was a splendid person and he leaves a void that cannot be filled,” said Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina.

“I hoped until the 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 blue shirt will never be forgotten.”

The FIGC confirmed that a minute’s silence in memory of Vialli will be held before all Italian matches this weekend.

An incredible career as both player and manager

Vialli made his Italy debut in 1985, a year after joining Sampdoria. It was there he won the Serie A title and European Cup Winners’ Cup during eight seasons with the club.

Sampdoria said in a statement: “We won’t forget your 141 goals , your overhead kicks, your cashmere shirts, your earring, your platinum blonde hair, your Ultras bomber jacket. You gave us so much, we gave you so much: yes, it was love, reciprocal, infinite. A love that will not die today with you.”

Vialli helped Sampdoria reach the 1992 European Cup final. However, after losing to Barcelona, he moved to Juventus. It was then a world record fee of £12m. Vialli spent four seasons with Juve, winning the Champions League, Uefa Cup and Serie A titles.

A Juve statement said: “We loved everything about you, absolutely everything – your smile, you 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.”

Move to Chelsea

Vialli joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 1996. He went on to become player-manager in 1998 after Ruud Gullit was sacked late in the season. He went on to lead the Blues to victory in the League Cup, Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Super Cup.

Vialli was the first Italian to manage a Premier League side.  

Vialli also led Chelsea to victory in the 2000 FA Cup final and Charity Shield. However, he was sacked early in the following season after a poor start.

A Chelsea statement said: “A brilliant striker, a trophy-winning manager and a wonderful man, Luca’s place in the pantheon of Chelsea greats is assured. He will be deeply missed.”

Vialli subsequently spent the 2001-02 season as manager of Watford, then in the second tier, but was dismissed after the Hornets finished 14th.

National team success

In October 2019, Vialli joined his former Sampdoria team-mate Roberto Mancini as a member of the national team’s  backroom staff. He helped the Azzurri win Euro 2020 with victory over England at Wembley in July 2021.

He left his national team role in December 2022 to focus on his health.

A FIGC statement said: “That photo on the Wembley lawn, that hug with coach Roberto Mancini after Federico Chiesa’s goal against Austria in the round of 16 of the 2021 European Championship, will be one of the images of Gianluca Vialli that we will carry in our hearts forever.”

Tributes from around the world

There have been many tributes to the former Italy striker from former team mates, managers and supporters.

Ruud Gullit posted an image on Instagram of himself with Vialli on the day he signed for Chelsea in 1996 with the caption: “RIP Gianluca Vialli. We will miss you.”

Former Scotland defender Graeme Souness, who played alongside Vialli at Sampdoria, told Sky Sports: “I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football, he was just a gorgeous soul. He was just a truly nice human being.

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

“People will say things about his magnificent football ability, and correctly so, but above all that what a human being. My condolence go to his family – the kids were blessed to have a dad like that, his wife was blessed to be married to a man like that.”

Alessandro del Piero, a Champions League winner alongside Vialli with Juventus posted: “Our captain. My captain. Forever.”

Gianfranco Zola, who both played alongside Vialli and under him as manager at Chelsea said: “Together we won many matches and shared some of the best moments of our lives.

“For the love of our ball we have often clashed. With no quarter, but always with the utmost respect. Because, in the end, we were always ourselves: two Italian boys and a ball.”

Former Chelsea captain John Terry tweeted: “Heartbroken. RIP Luca. A proper legend and a great man. I will forever be grateful for you giving me my debut.”

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust described Vialli as a “foundational pillar” upon which the club built a new trophy-filled era. A statement read: “He was loved by everyone at our football club. Thank you, Gianluca. We will miss you.”

Aleksander Ceferin, president of European football’s governing body Uefa, added: “All members of the football family will feel real pain and a sense of profound dismay.”

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