Italy legend Vialli passes away after brave cancer battle
Gianluca Vialli has passed away after losing his brave battle with cancer.
The former Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea star, 58, stepped back from his role with Italy last month to focus on beating the disease.
He was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 but revealed in April 2020 that he had received the all-clear after successfully undergoing treatment.
Vialli went on to play an important role as team co-ordinator in Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph alongside boss Roberto Mancini, his close friend and old Sampdoria team-mate.
But the ex-striker, who netted 16 goals in 59 caps and represented the Azzurri at two World Cups, confirmed in December 2021 that the cancer had returned.
And with his condition worsening towards the end of last year, his mother Maria Teresa and brother Nino reportedly rushed to London to be with him in hospital.
As the sad news emerged this morning, Chelsea tweeted: “You’ll be missed by so many. A legend to us and to all of football. Rest in peace, Gianluca Vialli.”
Graeme Souness, who played alongside Vialli at Sampdoria, was visibly emotional as he paid tribute to his former team-mate on Sky Sports.
The Scot, 69, said: “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 condolences 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.”
The Italian Football Federation have announced that all matches under their jurisdiction this weekend will be preceded by a minute’s silence in honour of Vialli.
Federation president Gabriele Gravina said: “I am deeply saddened.
“I hoped until the last that he could 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.
“Gianluca was a wonderful person and leaves an unfillable void in the national team and in all those who appreciated his extraordinary human qualities.”
Vialli began his career at hometown club Cremonese before going on to star for Sampdoria and Juve, winning the Serie A title with both.
The popular Italian joined Chelsea on a free in 1996 as Ruud Gullit continued the revolution at Stamford Bridge, building on the work of Glenn Hoddle.
His relationship with the Dutchman soured and he was often left out of the starting line-up.
But he netted twice in a 4-2 comeback win over Liverpool in the FA Cup fourth round on the road to Wembley, which culminated with victory over Middlesbrough in the final in May 1997.
Following Gullit’s dismissal early the next year, Vialli assumed the role of player-manager and led the Londoners to success in the League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.
His Blues won the Super Cup and finished third in the Premier League the following season, before lifting the FA Cup in May 2000.
The 2000-01 campaign started with victory over Manchester United in the Community Shield, known as the Charity Shield at the time, but Vialli was sacked just weeks later as Chelsea struggled for form.
After some time out, he took the reins at Watford in 2001-02 as the Hertfordshire club made wholesale and expensive changes to the playing and coaching staff.
But when the Hornets finished a disappointing 14th in the Championship, Vialli was relived of his duties and later moved into punditry work.
Gone too soon
Tributes to Vialli continue to flow on social media, with top European clubs and ex-players among those to pay their respects. Scroll down for a selection.