Mark Hughes remembers ‘great team-mate’ Gianluca Vialli

Mark Hughes has paid a poignant tribute to former Chelsea team-mate Gianluca Vialli following the Italian’s death aged 58 earlier this month.

Hughes shared the dressing room with Vialli from 1996 as a team-mate before the latter took the role of Blues player-manager in 1998.

The current Bradford boss took to the pitch at Stamford Bridge on Sunday alongside several other former team-mates of Vialli, who died on January 6 from pancreatic cancer, as the club paid their respects for the first time at home before their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

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Hughes, 59, told the PA news agency: “He was a great team-mate, we spent a couple of years both as a player and as a manager and you look back and reminisce about the moments you had with him.

“He didn’t impose his personality on people in a bad way, it was always to make people feel better and happier and he certainly did that, and was just a great guy.

“The one thing that’s been prevalent with everyone that has been asked for comments about Luca is it was always about his personality, his manner and his professionalism as well because he was an outstanding footballer in his own right.”

Hughes also believes Vialli should be remembered as “one of the best Chelsea managers of all time” after he helped them to domestic and European success in the couple of years they shared together at Stamford Bridge.

After winning the FA Cup in his first year as a player, Vialli replaced Ruud Gullit, who was sacked in February 1998, as player-manager of the Blues.

Gianluca Vialli celebrates winning the FA Cup as Chelsea manager
Gianluca Vialli celebrates winning the FA Cup as Chelsea manager (Rebecca Naden/PA)

He went on to lead Chelsea to League Cup, Super Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup glory before he took them to third in the league, their best finish since 1970, and another FA Cup in 2000.

Vialli’s five trophies during his time in west London can only be beaten by Jose Mourinho, who won eight pieces of silverware over two spells at Chelsea.

Hughes continued: “In terms of what he achieved, he was more successful as a manager in terms of trophies so he will be viewed as one of the best Chelsea managers of all time.

“It was just his empathy for players. Given the preparation and how hard he was working, we felt we needed to reciprocate that on the pitch for him.

“He was a guy who was exposed to a lot of things in life and had grown as a consequence of that and that moved him to bring all these players from different countries and make them work and combine to make a successful team, so that was a huge skill.”

Hughes played under Vialli during his first spell as a manager and said he maintained respect from everyone around him despite a change in some relationships when transitioning between the two roles.

He said: “He obviously loved going out and loved London, he used to love going out with his team-mates.

Mark Hughes
Mark Hughes paid tribute to his former team-mate (Tim Markland/PA)

“Not with me so much because I used to commute from Manchester so as soon as I finished training I was off. Socially, we didn’t get together too often, maybe for a couple of games of golf, he loved his golf.

“He obviously felt he had to just create that distance straight from the off, rather than letting it develop as a consequence of doing a different job, but everybody totally respected what he did. He was professional and incredibly successful both as a player and as a manager.

“Maybe some of his relationships changed with the team but each and every one of them had the utmost respect for him as a player and a person and that’s why we were able to win trophies.”