Gianluca Vialli: Chelsea lead tributes to ‘iconic figure’ and ‘gorgeous soul’ after death at 58

 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

Chelsea have led the tributes to Gianluca Vialli following his death on Friday.

The Blues’ former player and manager sadly passed away at the age of 58 in hospital in London after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer.

Vialli was a beloved figure at Stamford Bridge, in his native Italy and across the wider footballing world, with his death sparking an outpouring of grief from around the sport.

“You’ll be missed by so many. A legend to us and to all of football. Rest in peace, Gianluca Vialli,” Chelsea tweeted.

Owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali said: “This is truly an awful day for Chelsea Football Club. Gianluca’s legend will live on at Stamford Bridge.

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

Chelsea’s longer tribute read: “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.”

They finished: “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.”

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Former club Sampdoria wrote in an emotional article: “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. We will continue to love and adore you because – as you well know – you are better than Pelé.

“And because, despite everything, our beautiful season is destined to never end.”

Their tribute added: “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.”

In Pictures | Gianluca Vialli

(Bongarts/Getty Images)
(Bongarts/Getty Images)
17th June 1996: New Chelsea signing Gianlucia Vialli tries on his new shirt on the terraces at Stamford Bridg (PA)
17th June 1996: New Chelsea signing Gianlucia Vialli tries on his new shirt on the terraces at Stamford Bridg (PA)
2nd November 1996: Gianluca Vialli takes to the air to control the ball before scoring Chelsea’’s second goal during the Manchester United v Chelsea Premier League match at Old Trafford in Manchester, (Getty Images)
2nd November 1996: Gianluca Vialli takes to the air to control the ball before scoring Chelsea’’s second goal during the Manchester United v Chelsea Premier League match at Old Trafford in Manchester, (Getty Images)
11th July 2021: Gianluca Vialli, Delegation Chief of Italy celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy following his team’s victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium (Getty Images)
11th July 2021: Gianluca Vialli, Delegation Chief of Italy celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy following his team’s victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium (Getty Images)
circa 1984: Sampdoria striker Gianluca Vialli (l) rides the challenge of Paolo Pochesci of Ascoli (r) during a match in Genoa, Italy (Getty Images)
circa 1984: Sampdoria striker Gianluca Vialli (l) rides the challenge of Paolo Pochesci of Ascoli (r) during a match in Genoa, Italy (Getty Images)
5th March 1995: Gianlucsa Vialli during a match against Inter Milan at the San siro Stadium (Getty Images)
5th March 1995: Gianlucsa Vialli during a match against Inter Milan at the San siro Stadium (Getty Images)
26th November 1995: Gianluca Vialli of Juventus vies with Faustino Asparilla  of Parma (Getty Images)
26th November 1995: Gianluca Vialli of Juventus vies with Faustino Asparilla of Parma (Getty Images)
4th August 1996: Gianluca Vialli with the Umbro trophy after today’s Umbro Cup final against Ajax at the City Ground, Nottingham (PA)
4th August 1996: Gianluca Vialli with the Umbro trophy after today’s Umbro Cup final against Ajax at the City Ground, Nottingham (PA)
circa 1996: New Chelsea signing Gianluca Vialli (C) looks on with team mates during a training session after signing from Juventus in London (Getty Images)
circa 1996: New Chelsea signing Gianluca Vialli (C) looks on with team mates during a training session after signing from Juventus in London (Getty Images)
28th  February 1998: Chelsea’s Gianluca Vialli during a FA Carling Premiership match vs Liverpool (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
28th February 1998: Chelsea’s Gianluca Vialli during a FA Carling Premiership match vs Liverpool (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
16th April 1998: Gianluca Vialli of Chelsea out-jumps a Vicenza defender during the match between Chelsea v Vicenza in the European Cup Winners’’ Cup Semi-final played at Stamford Bridge, London, England. Chelsea won the match 3-1 to go into the Final. (Getty Images)
16th April 1998: Gianluca Vialli of Chelsea out-jumps a Vicenza defender during the match between Chelsea v Vicenza in the European Cup Winners’’ Cup Semi-final played at Stamford Bridge, London, England. Chelsea won the match 3-1 to go into the Final. (Getty Images)

Juventus wrote in their own heartfelt statement: “A champion, indeed a legend, a great man, a piece of us and of our history leaves us.

“We have always been with you, Gianluca: since you arrived in 1992 and it was love at first sight. You were one of the first building blocks of a Juve that would return, right with you, to the top of Europe. We loved everything about you, absolutely everything.”

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Juve added: “We are not original, now, in confessing to you that we do not know how to manage a world without Gianluca Vialli, although we know that, as we have always been with you, now it will be you, forever, with your family, to whom we send a big hug.”

Watford, whom Vialli managed in 2001-02, said: “All at Watford FC are saddened to learn of the passing of our former manager Gianluca Vialli. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Tearful friend Graeme Souness said on Sky Sports: “I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football for a minute, he was just a gorgeous soul. A truly nice human being.

“I went to Italy when I was 31, he was 20. He was just fabulous to be around. He was such a fun-loving guy, full of mischief. Such a warm individual and a fabulous player. What a human being.”

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The Italian FA wrote: “Ciao Gianluca, you will forever be remembered.”

Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton wrote: “Such sad sad news to hear of the passing of Gianluca Vialli. He was no age.A brilliant footballer and a lovely man. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

Another ex-Chelsea player in Frank Sinclair said: “Devastating news on the passing of Luca Vialli, one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the game, a great manager and team mate. RIP.”

Alan Shearer wrote: “RIP Gianluca Vialli. What a lovely lovely man and a wonderful player he was.”

Ross Wilkins, son of the late Ray Wilkins, who worked closely with Vialli at Chelsea, wrote: “Absolutely gutted to hear the news of Luca passing. He was one of the only true friends Dad had in football, a generous, kind man who loved football, but also valued friendship, family and life just as much. Thoughts are with his family at this time. Forever a Legend.”

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Tributes to Vialli extended far beyond football, with Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali saying: “We have lost an incredible man with the passing of Gianluca Vialli.

“He was an amazing talent - kind, caring and generous with a love for life. He was a friend and I will miss him hugely. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very sad time.”

Former world champion boxer Carl Frampton said: “I remember being absolutely starstruck seeing Gianluca Vialli walk past me on the Kings Rd, Chelsea. What a player. RIP.”