Tributes pour in as former Chelsea and Italy striker Gianluca Vialli dies after cancer battle

Gianluca Vialli celebrating for Italy Credit: Alamy
Gianluca Vialli celebrating for Italy Credit: Alamy

Gianluca Vialli has passed away at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer, it has been confirmed by the Italian football federation.

Vialli, who used to play for Cremonese, Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea, as well as the Italian national team – for whom he scored 16 goals in 59 caps – died in London.

He had been battling pancreatic cancer for a second time, after initially being diagnosed in 2017 before being given the all-clear in 2020.

The cancer returned a year later and Vialli had been receiving treatment in a London hospital.

Sadly, he has now lost his battle with the disease. The Italian football federation (FIGC) confirmed the news on Friday morning.

Gabriele Gravina, the FIGC president, said in a statement: “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.”

Chelsea pay respects to Gianluca Vialli

Chelsea owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali said via their own statement: “This is truly an awful day for Chelsea Football Club.

“Gianluca’s legend will live on at Stamford Bridge. 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.”

Vialli scored 40 goals in 88 games for Chelsea between 1996 and 1999, going on to serve as player-manager and then full-time manager.

While with the club as a player, he won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (the latter two as player-manager). As their manager, he led them to another FA Cup, a Charity Shield and a UEFA Super Cup.

Previously, he had won Serie A with both Sampdoria and Juventus. When transferring to the latter, he became the world’s most expensive player of all time in 1992.

While playing in his native country, he also won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

His ex-Sampdoria teammate Graeme Souness told Sky Sports: “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 condolence 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.”

Ex-England striker Peter Crouch tweeted: “I’m genuinely gutted about this. I had Sampdoria home and away shirts because of him. I tried to replicate his volleys in the park and such a lovely man when I met him. RIP.”

Vialli also had a spell managing Watford between 2001 and 2002. He went on to serve as Italy’s delegation chief during their successful Euro 2020 campaign, under the management of his former Sampdoria teammate Gianluca Mancini.

There will be a minute’s silence at every Italian game this weekend.

Vialli is survived by his wife Cathryn and daughters Olivia and Sofia.

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