Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battle

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Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battle
Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battle

Chelsea and Italy legend Gianluca Vialli has passed away at the age of 58, five years after first being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Vialli scored 40 goals in 88 appearances for the Blues between 1996 and 1999 before going on to manage the Stamford Bridge club, winning three major trophies.

Under the Italian, who initially took over as player-manager in February 1998, Chelsea won the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup within his first few months in the job, before he added the FA Cup in 2000.

Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battle rridzziquridttinvVialli was part of the Italy coaching staff for their Euro 2020 victory at Wembley in July 2021 (Getty Images)

The former Sampdoria and Juventus forward won 59 caps for Italy, and after he was initially given the all clear from his cancer in 2020, he took up a role on former teammate Roberto Mancini's staff with the Italian national team, who won the European Championships in England the following summer.

He stepped down from the role in December when he returned to the Royal Marsden hospital to undergo further treatment on the cancer, which he called "an unwanted guest".

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Vialli, who also managed Watford between 2001 and 2002, is survived by his wife Cathryne White Cooper and their two daughters Olivia and Sofia. "Ciao Gianluca, you will forever be remembered," a message from the Italian national team read.

Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battleVialli was a hugely popular member of the Italy setup (Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

Tributes have begun pouring in for the former striker, with a number of clubs in Italy and further afield sharing messages. "A great man, a great champion and fighter on the field and in life," was the message from Serie A side Udinese. "You left early, bloody early but you will always remain in our hearts with your unforgettable example and class. Ciao Gianluca."

"We are saddened by the passing of Gianluca Vialli, a great sportsman on and off the pitch," AC Milan said. "Our heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones."

Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after brave cancer battleVialli was Chelsea manager when they won the FA Cup in 2000 (Getty Images Europe)

A Champions League winner with Juventus in 1996, Vialli rounded off his playing career in England. He became player-manager of Chelsea in 1998 after the departure of Ruud Gullit, and remained in the dugout after hanging up his boots.

His 59 Italy caps included call-ups for the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, the latter on home soil. He was part of the Azzurri team beaten by Argentina in the 1990 semi-finals, and was on the bench for his country as they beat England in the third-place play-off.

"You’ll be missed by so many," Chelsea wrote on social media. "A legend to us and to all of football. Rest in peace, Gianluca Vialli"

Another Serie A club, Spezia, praised Vialli as a "World football icon". "Leader on and off the field. Ciao Gianluca, you leave a great void, but your memory and your example will never leave us," their message read.

Meanwhile, Sampdoria, the club with whom he enjoyed the longest and most productive spell of his playing career - and where he was playing when he earned his first senior Italy caps - simply wrote "Goodbye, Luca" on Twitter while sharing a photo of the striker celebrating during his playing days.

In a tribute on their website, the club honoured their "beautiful" former star striker. "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," the tribute read.

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Juventus went down a similar route, sharing a photo of Vialli after that Champions League success. He captained the side to glory over Ajax in the 1996 final, playing in a front three with compatriots Alessandro Del Piero and Fabrizio Ravanelli as the Bianconeri won after a penalty shoot-out.

Mark Jones

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