Italian footballer Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58

Gianluca Vialli, the former Italian football striker who helped Sampdoria and Juventus win Serie A and European trophies before becoming player-coach at Chelsea, has died. He was 58.

The Italian Football Federation confirmed Vialli’s death on Friday.

Vialli announced in 2018 that he had overcome a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer, but said in December 2021 that the disease had returned.

As his condition worsened, Vialli announced in mid-December that he was temporarily stepping down from his role as head of delegation for Italy’s national team.

Federation president Gabriele Gravina said he was “deeply saddened” and noted that Vialli’s sporting success was matched by his “extraordinary human qualities.”

Vialli was appointed head of delegation under Azzurri head coach Roberto Mancini, his longtime friend and former teammate.

Known as the ‘gemelli del gol’ or ‘goal twins’ when they played together at Sampdoria, the pair led the Genoa club to their only Serie A title in 1991 and their only European title in 1990 with the Cup Winners’ Cup – plus four Italian cup trophies.

Vialli and Mancini also helped Sampdoria reach the European Cup final in 1992, which they lost to Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.

As head of delegation, Vialli was reunited with Mancini to help Italy win the European Championship by beating England on penalties at Wembley in 2021.

“We have a relationship that goes far beyond friendship,” Mancini said during the Euros. “He’s like a real brother to me.”

Vialli’s death comes three weeks after the untimely passing of another Serie A great, Siniša Mihajlović, who died after a long battle with leukemia. Mihajlović also played with Mancini at Sampdoria after Vialli left the club for Juventus.

Vialli won another Serie A title at Juventus and also lifted the Champions League and UEFA Cup trophies with the Bianconeri.

“Such an intense feeling of loss,” Juventus said in a statement. “We have always been with you, Gianluca. Ever since you arrived in 1992, when it was love at first sight…we loved everything about you, absolutely everything – your smile, being a star and a leader at the same time, on the pitch and in the dressing room, your adorable bubbly ways , your culture, your class, which you showed until the last day in the black and white stripes.”

Vialli played for Italy from 1985-1992, making 59 appearances and scoring 16 goals.

He ended his playing career while also managing Chelsea, guiding the London club to the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup titles. He continued to live in London after moving on from Chelsea to television commentating and other ventures.

“Our thoughts go out to Lucas’ wife Cathryn, his daughters Sofia and Olivia, and the rest of his family and friends at this terribly sad time,” Chelsea said in a statement.

Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali added: “Gianluca’s legend will live on at Stamford Bridge.”

“His influence as a player, coach and most importantly as a person will forever be written throughout the club’s history.”

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