Gianluca Vialli has been remembered as a “legend” with “adorable swashbuckling ways” and a “gorgeous soul” after he died at the age of 58.
Former Italy, Cremonese, Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea striker Vialli passed away on Friday.
He was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and was re-diagnosed with the disease in 2021, having been given the all-clear three years ago.
Vialli had a hugely successful playing career before winning more honours as Chelsea boss, then taking over at Watford before he joined great friend Roberto Mancini’s staff to play a part in Italy’s European Championship triumph in 2021.
Tributes poured in for Vialli after his death was announced.
Serie A club Sampdoria, for whom Vialli scored 141 goals, said: “We will remember you as a boy and a relentless centre forward, because heroes are all young and beautiful and you, since that summer of 1984, have been our hero.
“Strong and beautiful, with that 9 printed on the back and the Italian flag sewn on the heart. Strongest leader of Sampdoria, paired up front with your twin Bobby Gol [Mancini]. In three words: one of us.
“It was a perception that remained after having bid farewell to Genoa and the South in tears. That’s right: while raising trophies around Europe with different colours, tracksuits and clothes, Gianluca Vialli was a Sampdorian and the Sampdorians were with Gianluca Vialli.”
Goodbye, Luca. pic.twitter.com/npEOq6CanR
— Sampdoria English (@sampdoria_en) January 6, 2023
Juve stated: “Such an intense sense of loss. We had been watching the news for days, hoping never to read this. But here we are, staring at the screen, and a flood of emotions crash inside of us.
“We have always been with you, Gianluca. Ever since you arrived in 1992, when it was love at first sight. You were one of the first pieces of a Juve side that would climb back to the top of Europe.
“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.
“We have always been with you, and therefore also after our story together ended, following you with a smile when you brought a brand new Italian model of football to England, on and off the pitch, and only now do we understand how pioneering you were.
“And in recent years, fighting the last battle with you, being moved by you when, in excellent form, you lifted the European Championship trophy, coincidentally in London, in 2021. And even then, we lifted that cup together.
“We have always suffered along with you, including the anxiety of these last few weeks. And again, in the end, we had to cry, but this time tears of loss.
“We are not original in confessing that we don’t know how to get on in a world without Gianluca Vialli, even though we know that, as we have always been with you, now it will be you, forever with us. Even if that doesn’t comfort us, at least not right now.”
Ciao Gianluca pic.twitter.com/C9P8oVLSnR
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) January 6, 2023
Chelsea also gave an emotional tribute to their former talisman and boss.
The Premier League club said: “As soon as he walked through the door at Stamford Bridge when already a global football star, Luca declared his wish to become a Chelsea legend.
“It is a target he undoubtedly reached, revered for his work on the pitch and in the dugout during some of the most successful years in our history.
“Loved by fans, players and staff at Stamford Bridge, Luca will be sorely missed not just by the Chelsea community, but the entire footballing world, including in his native Italy, where he was such an iconic figure.”
Graeme Souness, Vialli’s team-mate at Samp, told Sky Sports: “I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football for a minute, he just a gorgeous soul.
“He was just a truly nice human being. I went to Italy when I was 31 years old and he was 20. He was just fabulous to be around, a fun-loving guy, he was full of mischief, such a warm individual and a fabulous player.
“My condolences go to his family and his wife. They have been blessed that their paths crossed, the kids were blessed to have a Dad like that and his wife was blessed that she was married to a man like that.”
Dennis Wise, Vialli’s captain at Chelsea, tweeted: “My heart is broken today. I will miss you my friend, love you Luca.”
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