Ex-Chelsea, Juventus star Gianluca Vialli dies at 58

Former Chelsea and Juventus star Gianluca Vialli has died at the age of 58 after battling cancer for five years.

Vialli was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and for the second time in 2021.

Surrounded by his family, he passed away last night after five years of illness, which he faced with courage and dignity, a statement from his family said on Friday.

“We thank the many who have supported him over the years with their affection. His memory and example will live forever in our hearts.”

Vialli was part of the coaching staff that led Italy to success in the 2020 European Championships, but left his role with the national team in December in order to undergo further treatment.

“I know I probably won’t die of old age,” Vialli said in a Netflix documentary airing in March 2022. “I wish I could live as long as possible, but I feel more fragile than before.”

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He described cancer as a “traveling companion” whom he hoped would eventually leave him in peace after testing his strength.

“Illness can teach a lot about who you are, and it can push you beyond the superficial way we live,” he said.

Following Friday’s news, FIGC President Gabriele Gravina said: “Gianluca was an amazing person and left a void that could not be filled, in the national team and in everyone who appreciates extraordinary human qualities.”

Vialli made his debut as a youth player with his local club Cremonese in the third and second tier of Italy.

He moved to Sampdoria in 1984 and helped the club enjoy the most successful period in its history, winning the Italian Cup three times. Vialli scored twice as Sampdoria beat Anderlecht 2-0 in 1990 to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

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He also played a key role when Sampdoria won the 1991 Serie A title for the first and only time, scoring 19 goals.

Vialli left the Genoa-based club in the summer of 1992, moving to Juventus, where he rediscovered his scoring touch after a slow start, helping the Torino giants win Serie A 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 sacked.

Under Vialli, Chelsea won the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup two years later before he too was sacked.

His last managerial role was in charge of Watford in the English second division in 2001 and 2002.

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In October 2019, Vialli was named the new head of the Italian delegation, meaning he was reunited with coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend and partner in attack when they both played for Sampdoria, where they were known as their ‘goal twins’.

Mancini and Vialli led the Italian team to the Euro 2020 finals, lifting the trophy at Wembley Stadium. Sampdoria had lost the European Cup final to Barcelona at the same venue 29 years earlier.

Vialli said in a televised interview with Italy’s RAI in November that the pair celebrated with a tearful embrace that “was more beautiful than the hugs we used to give to each other when I passed him the ball and he scored goals.”

Vialli leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.


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