Italian football star Gianluca Vialli has died at the age of 58 after what he described as his ‘journey’ with an ‘unwelcome travel companion’ – pancreatic cancer.
Vialli announced in December that he was stepping down from his position with the Italian National Federation for health reasons after consulting with oncologists.
Vialli has publicly suffered from cancer for years. He first announced that he had received treatment in 2018, but said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that it was “very well.” Another bout with the illness soon followed in 2019, before his former team Chelsea announced he had ‘had it all’ in 2020. Last year, the former footballer announced that the illness had returned.
Vialli played for the Italian clubs Sampdoria and Juventus and the English Premier League club Chelsea, and won 59 international matches for Italy. He was part of the Italian national team that finished third in the 1990 World Cup.
After short stints in charge of Chelsea and Watford, Vialli was part of the backroom staff for the Italy national team, along with his former Sampdoria teammate Roberto Mancini, and together they won the 2020 UEFA European Championship.
After the final match, in which Italy beat England on penalties, Italian defender Alessandro Florenzi Vialli paid tribute.
“Everyone should know that. We have an example among us that teaches us to live, at some point, in any situation,” Florenzi said, according to ESPN.
“And I’m talking about Gianluca Vialli, for us he’s special. Without him, without Mancini and the other coaches, this victory wouldn’t mean anything. He’s a living example. I know he’d go crazy, but I had to say it.”
Having started his football career with Club Cremonese in 1980 in Serie A, Vialli hit his breakthrough in 1984 when he joined Sampdoria.
Together with Mancini – nicknamed ‘I Gemelli del Gol’ or ‘The Goal Twin’ – he led the two strikers to the most successful period in the club’s history.
Vialli said in a 2019 interview on Sky Sports that the couple’s relationship worked out so well on the pitch because they “loved each other like human beings”.
Vialli told Sky Sports: “We were different, but we are progressing well, and that helps me a lot I think.
“And then on the pitch, we were very complementary… When you have two strikers who don’t care if the other striker scores three goals and you don’t score anything, that’s great because the only thing we wanted is a winning team.”
Vialli finished as top scorer for Sampdoria, who won their first Serie A title in 1991, and also won the Italian Cup three times and finished runners-up in the 1992 European Cup to Barcelona.
Vialli then joined Italian giants Juventus in 1992 for a record fee of £12 million ($14.57 million).
In his four seasons with the Turin club, Vialli enjoyed further success, winning the Serie A title, as well as the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup.
He remains the last Juventus captain to lift the Champions League trophy, which he says means a lot to him personally.
Vialli told Sky: “For me it’s very important to be the last Juventus captain to win the Champions League because all the fans still remember that, I still remember seeing myself as the last captain of a very Italian team to perform in Europe.” Sports in 2015 before the UEFA Champions League Final between Juventus and Barcelona.
“On the one hand, I want Juventus to win because I have a lot of friends there. But on the other hand, it would be heartbreaking to see someone take my place.
“Having said that, seeing my picture lifting the trophy alongside Gaetano Scirea – the legendary Juventus defender, perhaps one of the best Italian defenders of all time – and Gianluigi Buffon would be like having your picture hung on the side of Picasso and Van Gogh.”
Vialli left for Chelsea in 1996, winning the FA Cup in his first season in England before being appointed player-manager the following season.
Vialli retired from professional football in 1999 to focus on his full-time manager role. As Chelsea manager, he won the FA Cup and League Cup before being sacked in 2000.
He had a brief stint as Watford coach before spending many years as a football commentator and commentator.
In 2018, Vialli revealed that he was in “good” shape after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
After his initial cancer diagnosis, Vialli said he was “ashamed” of the disease, adding that he would wear a jacket under his shirt so no one would notice his changed body.
He described cancer as an “unwanted travel companion” in his book Goals: Inspirational Stories to Help Meet Life’s Challenges. “I don’t see this as fighting,” he wrote.
I’m not a warrior. I am not fighting cancer: it is a very powerful enemy and I will stand no chance. I am a man on a journey and my Cancer has joined me on this journey…my goal is to keep walking and moving until he has had enough and leaves me alone. »
In 2020 Vialli had it all after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to an announcement from his former club Chelsea.
At the time, Vialli spoke about the struggles he went through.
“Gaining my health back means seeing myself in the mirror again, seeing hair grow back and not having to draw my eyebrows,” he said. “It may seem strange at this time[of a pandemic]compared to so many other people I feel very lucky to have. »
In 2021, he said he was battling pancreatic cancer again after his return, and he resigned from his role with the Italian National Federation in December 2022 on the advice of medical experts.