Gianluca Vialli, the former Italian soccer forward who helped Sampdoria and Juventus win Serie A and European trophies before becoming player-coach at Chelsea, has died. He was 58.
The Italian soccer federation confirmed Vialli’s death on Friday.
Vialli announced in 2018 that he had overcome a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer but then said in December 2021 that the disease had returned.
With his condition worsening, Vialli announced in mid-December that he was temporarily stepping down from his role as the delegation chief for Italy’s national team.
Federation president Gabriele Gravina said he was “deeply saddened” and noted that Vialli’s sporting success was matched by his “extraordinary human qualities.”
Vialli was appointed delegation chief under Azzurri head coach Roberto Mancini, his longtime friend and former teammate.
The pair were known as the “gemelli del gol,” or “goal twins,” when they played together at Sampdoria, leading the Genoa club to its only Serie A title in 1991 and its only European title in 1990 with the Cup Winners’ Cup — plus four Italian Cup trophies.
Vialli and Mancini also helped Sampdoria reach the 1992 European Cup final, which it lost to Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.
As delegation chief, Vialli reunited with Mancini to help Italy win the European Championship by beating England in a penalty shootout at Wembley in 2021.
“We have a relationship that goes way beyond friendship,” Mancini said during the Euros. “He’s like a true brother to me.”
Vialli’s death comes three weeks after the premature passing of another Serie A great, Siniša Mihajlović, who died after a long battle with leukaemia. Mihajlović also played with Mancini at Sampdoria after Vialli left the club for Juventus.
Vialli won another Serie A title at Juventus and also raised the Champions League and UEFA Cup trophies with the Bianconeri.
“Such an intense sense of loss,” Juventus said in a statement. “We have always been with you, Gianluca. Ever since you arrived in 1992, when it was love at first sight...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 played for Italy from 1985-1992, making 59 appearances and scoring 16 goals.
He ended his playing career while also managing Chelsea, leading the London club to FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup titles. He continued to live in London after moving on from Chelsea into TV commentary and other ventures.
“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,” Chelsea said in a statement.
Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali added, “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.”