Gianluca Vialli: Chelsea and Italy legend dies after battle with cancer
The Italian striker won the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup as Chelsea manager
Former Chelsea striker and manager Gianluca Vialli has died, aged 58, after a battle with cancer.
Vialli was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. He was given the all-clear a year later only for the illness to return. His former club, Sampdoria, announced his death on Friday morning.
Vialli enjoyed a glittering career with Serie A giants Sampdoria and Juventus before becoming one of the first foreign players to make a major impact in the Premier League.
He joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 1996 before becoming player-manager in 1998.
Vialli was the first Italian to manage a Premier League side, taking over from Ruud Gullit late in the season.
He 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, making him the club's second most successful manager after Jose Mourinho.
Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly paid tribute to the club great in a statement on Friday morning: "This is truly an awful day for Chelsea Football Club," he said.
"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."
Most recently Vialli worked with the Italian national team under Roberto Mancini, leading Azzurri to glory at Euro 2020 with victory over England at Wembley.
Lifelong friends off the pitch, Mancini was also Vialli's former strike partner at Sampdoria, where they were known as "the goal twins."
Vialli was forced to step aside from his role as head of a delegation with the Italian national team last month, saying he needed to focus on overcoming a new phase of his disease.
"Gianluca was a splendid person and he leaves a void that cannot be filled," said Italian Football Federation 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."
BT Sport pundit 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."
Vialli played 59 times for Italy, making his 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.
He also 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 the Old Lady, winning the Champions League, Uefa Cup and Serie A title.