Gianluca Vialli: former Italy and Chelsea striker dies at 58

Former Chelsea player and manager had pancreatic cancer

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The former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli has died at the age of 58 after a battle with cancer.

His death was confirmed by his former club Sampdoria on Friday.

The former Chelsea star and manager had pancreatic cancer and was being treated at a London hospital.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and given the all-clear in April 2020 but in December 2021 he announced the cancer had returned.

"We will remember you as a boy and a relentless centre-forward, because heroes are all young and beautiful and you, since that summer of 1984, have been our hero," Sampdoria said in a statement on Friday.

"In three words: one of us."

Vialli had a distinguished playing career, coming through the ranks at Cremonese and spending four seasons in the senior team, before a highly successful eight-year spell at Sampdoria, where he led the club to the Serie A title, three Copa Italias, one Uefa Cup Winners' Cup, and reached the 1992 European Cup final.

One of the finest Italian footballers of his era, Vialli secured a then world record move to Juventus and helped the club win the 1993 Uefa Cup in his first season. A domestic double followed in his second year in Turin and the Uefa Champions League in his third.

"Such an intense sense of loss. We had been watching the news for days, hoping never to read this. But here we are ... and a flood of emotions crashes inside of us," Juventus' statement in tribute to Vialli read.

"We have always been with you, Gianluca. Ever since you arrived in 1992, when it was love at first sight. You were one of the first pieces of a Juve side that would have climbed back to the top of Europe.

"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 Premier League club Chelsea in the summer of 1996 and he quickly became a fan favourite, winning the FA Cup in his first season and the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in the second as player-manager.

Vialli assumed the role of player-manager in February 1998, becoming the first Italian to manage in the Premier League. He retired from playing at the end of the 1998/99 season to focus on his managerial role and he led the club to another FA Cup success in 2000.

"As soon as he walked through the door at Stamford Bridge when already a global football star, Luca declared his wish to become a Chelsea legend," a statement on the Chelsea website read. "It is a target he undoubtedly reached, revered for his work on the pitch and in the dugout during some of the most successful years in our history.

"Loved by fans, players and staff at Stamford Bridge, Luca will be sorely missed not just by the Chelsea community, but the entire footballing world, including in his native Italy, where he was such an iconic figure.

"Our thoughts are with Luca’s wife Cathryn, his daughters Sofia and Olivia, and the rest of his family and his friends at this terribly sad time."

After leaving Chelsea in 2000, Vialli took up the manager's position at Watford for one year.

Upon leaving football management, Vialli worked as a commentator before joining the Italy national team setup in October 2019 as the delegation chief under former Sampdoria teammate Roberto Mancini. He was part of the Italy team which won the European Championship in 2021.

Updated: January 06, 2023, 11:27 AM