January 30, 2023

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Gianluca Vialli: Former Chelsea, Juventus and Italy striker dies aged 58

4 min read

Chelsea player-manager Gianluca Vialli lifts the European Cup Winners' Cup after the 1998 final against ParmaGianluca Vialli was Chelsea’s player-manager when they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998

Former Chelsea striker and manager Gianluca Vialli, who played 59 times for Italy, has died at the age 58.

Vialli was re-diagnosed in 2021 and in December 2022 left a role with Italy’s national team to focus on his health.

“Gianluca was a splendid person and he leaves a void that cannot be filled,” said Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina.

“I hoped until the end that he would be able to 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.”

The FIGC confirmed that a minute’s silence in memory of Vialli will be held before all Italian matches this weekend.

Vialli made his Italy debut in 1985, a year after joining Sampdoria where he would win the Serie A title and European Cup Winners’ Cup during eight seasons with the club.

Sampdoria said in a statement: “We won’t forget your 141 goals , your overhead kicks, your cashmere shirts, your earring, your platinum blonde hair, your Ultras bomber jacket. 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.”

Vialli helped Sampdoria reach the 1992 European Cup final but after losing to Barcelona, he moved to Juventus for a then world record fee of £12m. Vialli spent four seasons with Juve, winning the Champions League, Uefa Cup and Serie A titles.

A Juve statement said: “We loved everything about you, absolutely everything – your smile, your being a star and leader at the same time, on the pitch and in the dressing room, your adorable swashbuckling ways, your culture, your class, which you showed until the last day in the black and white stripes.”

Vialli joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 1996 and became player-manager in 1998 – the first Italian to manage a Premier League side, taking over from the sacked Ruud Gullit late in the season – and went on to lead the Blues to victory in the League Cup, Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Super Cup.

He also guided Chelsea to victory in the 2000 FA Cup final and Charity Shield but was sacked early in the following season after a poor start.

A Blues statement said: “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.”

Vialli then had a short spell as manager of Watford, then in the second tier, during the 2001-02 season but was dismissed after the Hornets only finished 14th.

In October 2019 he was appointed to Italy’s backroom staff by manager and former Sampdoria team-mate Roberto Mancini. He helped the Azzurri win Euro 2020 with victory over England at Wembley in July 2021.

A FIGC statement said: “That photo on the Wembley lawn, that hug with coach Roberto Mancini after Federico Chiesa’s goal against Austria in the round of 16 of the 2021 European Championship, will be one of the images of Gianluca Vialli that we will carry in our hearts forever.”

‘A gorgeous soul’ – Vialli tributes

A number of Vialli’s former team-mates and managers have led the tributes to the former Italy striker.

Former Blues manager Gullit posted an image on Instagram of himself with Vialli on the day he signed for Chelsea in 1996 with the caption: “RIP Gianluca Vialli. We will miss you.”

Former Scotland defender Graeme Souness, who played alongside Vialli at Sampdoria, 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.”

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, who played alongside Vialli with Italy, tweeted in Italian: “Ciao amico mio” – thank you my friend.

Former England captain Alan Shearer tweeted: “RIP Gianluca Vialli. What a lovely lovely man and a wonderful player he was.”

And ex-England striker Peter Crouch wrote on Twitter: “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”

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust described Vialli as a “foundational pillar” upon which the club built a new trophy-filled era.

A statement read: “He was loved by everyone at our football club. Thank you, Gianluca. We will miss you.”

League Manager’s Association chief executive Richard Bevan described Vialli as “one of the kindest and most charismatic men we have ever met in the world of sport”.

Gianluca Vialli’s career – in pictures

Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini at SampdoriaGianluca Vialli began his career at Cremonese before joining Sampdoria in 1984, where he formed a prolific strike partnership with Roberto ManciniItaly team photo before a match at the 1990 World CupVialli played 59 times for Italy and was part of the Azzurri squad that finished third at the 1990 World Cup on home soilGianluca Vialli lifting the Champions League trophyVialli joined Juventus for a then world record fee of £12m in 1992, winning five major trophies including the Champions League in 1996Gianluca Vialli with the League CupVialli became Chelsea player-manager in 1998 and led the Blues to victory in the League Cup, Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Super Cup.Gianluca VIalli and Ray Wilkin's at a Watford gameVialli’s final managerial role was with Watford during the 2001-02 with former Chelsea coach Ray Wilkins as his assistantGianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini celebrating at WembleyVialli was reunited with former team-mate Mancini with Italy in 2019 and helped the Azzurri win Euro 2020Everything you need to know about your Premier League team banner