Mancini pays emotional tribute to 'little brother' Vialli

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Roberto Mancini has described his "little brother" Gianluca Vialli as a "perfect and courageous man" after he died at the age of 58

Former Italy, Cremonese, Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea striker Vialli passed away on Friday.

The hugely popular and successful Vialli 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.

Ex-Chelsea manager Vialli's death has rocked the football world less than a month after he stepped down from his duties as head of delegation for the Italy national team.

Italy head coach Mancini has spoken of his final visit to see his long-time close friend late last month, so soon after the death of Sinisa Mihajlovic.

He told the Corriere dello Sport: "He was powerless, with little voice, but very lucid. We talked a bit about everything, he even asked me about the get-together in December with the youths. He wanted to know the developments of the project."

Mancini paid a glowing tribute to Vialli, who he celebrated a European Championship triumph with at Wembley in June 2021 following a win over England.

He added: "Luca was smiling, we joked. I told him that he was earning more than me at Sampdoria, the president was paying him more than me. A few days after Sinisa's farewell, I lose another brother, a little brother, as I liked to call him.

"We met when we were 16 and we never split. The entire journey together. Azzurri's youth sector, national team, Samp, joys and pain, victories and defeats. Those two nights at Wembley.

"Once we cried with sadness and bitterness, many years ago. The other time, we cried with joy, as we were united by destiny, before his death. Gianluca was the best of us, a complete striker, a perfect and courageous man.

"I've long hoped he could become the president of Sampdoria, he would have opened an extraordinary history, as when he was a footballer. It was a privilege to be his friend and a team-mate in football and life.

"He made me happy. He had a decisive role in the victory of the Euros. Players loved him. Gianluca had the strength and gave us the courage we didn't know we had which he used to fight the illness, staying with us until he could.

"I say goodbye to another brother, after Sinisa. With his strength, I'll go forward to dedicate to him something relevant, which we've been dreaming of for a lifetime."