Former Chelsea and Juventus star Gianluca Vialli has died aged 58 after battling cancer for five years.
Vialli was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and the second time in 2021.
A statement from his family on Friday read: “Surrounded by his family, he passed away last night after a five-year illness, despite his strength and dignity.
“We are grateful to the many people who supported him with their kindness over the years. His memory and his example will live in our hearts forever.”
Vialli was part of the coaching staff that led Italy to Euro 2020, but left his role with the national team in December to undergo several treatments.
“I know I probably won’t die of old age, I hope to live as long as possible, but I feel much more fragile than before,” Vialli said in a Netflix documentary aired in March 2022.
He described cancer as a “companion of travel” that he hoped would finally leave him in peace after trying to fight.
“Illness can teach you a lot about who you are, and it can push you to go beyond the superficial way we live,” he said.
After the news on Friday, the President of the Italian Football Federation Gabriele Gravina said: “Gianluca was a wonderful person and leaves an inexplicable void, in the national team and in all those who liked his exceptional human quality.”
Vialli first emerged as a young player with his local team Cremona in Italy’s third and second tier.
He moved to Sampdoria in 1984 and helped the club win the Italian Cup three times during the most successful season in its history. Vialli scored twice as Sampdoria beat Anderlecht 2-0 in 1990 to lift the European Cup winners.
He also played a major role when Sampdoria won the league title in 1991 Serie A for the first time in one season, scoring 19 goals.
Vialli left the Genoa-based club in the summer of 1992, moving to Juventus, where after a slow start he rediscovered his goal-scoring touch and won the Turin giants the Italian league in 1995 and the Champions League the following season.
He joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 1996 and became player manager two years later when Dutchman Ruud Gullit was poached.
Under Vialli, Chelsea won the League Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998, and the FA Cup two years later before he too was sacked.
You will be missed by so many. For us all reading football through.
Rest in peace, Gianluca Vialli. 💙 pic.twitter.com/mNJPDkCSYO
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 6, 2023
His last managerial role was in charge of Watford in the English second tier in 2001 and 2002.
In October 2019, Vialli was appointed head of Italy’s new delegation, signifying that he was linked with head coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend and striking partner with whom they both played at Sampdoria, where they were known as the “twin goals”.
Mancini and Vialli led Italy to Euro 2020, lifting the trophy at Wembley Stadium. Their team Sampdoria had lost the European Cup final in Barcelona at the same venue 29 years earlier.
The pair celebrated with a tearful hug that “was more beautiful than the hug we used to give each other when I passed the ball and scored the goals,” Vialli said in a TV interview with Italy’s RAI in November.
Vialli leaves his wife and two daughters.
Information from Reuters contributed to this report.