Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli dies aged 58 after cancer battle

6 January 2023, 09:41 | Updated: 6 January 2023, 12:17

Vialli played for and managed Chelsea
Vialli played for and managed Chelsea. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli has died at the age of 58 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Vialli was first diagnosed with cancer in 2017 and then again in 2021, shortly after Italy won Euro 2020.

His family said in a statement: "We thank the many who have supported him over the years with their affection. The memory of him and his example will live forever in our hearts."

Vialli scored 40 goals in 88 appearances for the West London club between 1996 and 1999 before managing them.

Head of Italy delegation Gianluca Vialli celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy following his team's victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship
Head of Italy delegation Gianluca Vialli celebrates with The Henri Delaunay Trophy following his team's victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship. Picture: Getty
Gianluca Vialli of Chelsea
Gianluca Vialli of Chelsea. Picture: Getty

Before moving to Chelsea, Vialli played for for Cremonese, Sampdoria and Juventus in his home country.

In 1998, he became a player-manager for Chelsea after Ruud Gullit's exit, winning the League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Super Cup.

After becoming full-time manager in 1999, Chelsea won the FA Cup and Charity Shield in 2000 under the Italian.

More recently, he had been working as a part of the Italian national team, which he stepped down from just weeks ago to undergo treatment for his cancer.

Tributes have flooded in following his passing, including from Georgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, who said: "We won't forget your goals, your legendary bicycle kicks, the joy and emotion you gave the whole nation in that embrace with Mancini after the European Championship victory.

Gianluca Vialli worked in the Italian national team in his final months
Gianluca Vialli worked in the Italian national team in his final months. Picture: Getty

"But we will not forget above all the man. To God Gianluca Vialli, the Lion King on the pitch and in life."

“I am deeply saddened by the news", President of the Italian football federation Gabriele Gravina said.

"I hoped right up until the final seconds that another miracle would appear, yet I'm consoled by what he gave to football in Italy and the Azzurri shirt, and that will always be remembered.

"Gianluca was a wonderful person and will leave a big hole in the national team and in everyone who knew his extraordinary human qualities."

Vialli's former teammate Graeme Souness, told Sky Sports: "I can't tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football, he was just a gorgeous soul. He was just a truly nice human being.

"He was just fabulous to be around. He was such a fun-loving guy, full of mischief, wonderful footballer and a warm human being.

"People will say things about his magnificent football ability, and correctly so, but above all that what a human being.

"My condolence go to his family - the kids were blessed to have a dad like that, his wife was blessed to be married to a man like that."

Vialli is survived by his wife Cathryne White Cooper and their two daughters Olivia and Sofia.

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