Gianluca Vialli, a former Italian striker who featured in major European clubs like Juventus and Chelsea, died on Friday following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 58.
The Italian soccer community mourns the death of one of the most iconic sportspersons of his generation.
A Cremona, Lombardy native, Vialli began his professional career at Cremonese, where his technical skills, athleticism and goal instinct immediately drew the attention of major Italian teams.
In 1984, he signed with Genoa-based club Sampdoria, leading them to their first ever Scudetto during the 1990/91 Serie A season. As a SampdoriaVialli formed a memorable offensive partnership with Roberto Mancini and tallied 141 goals in 328 matches before joining the Italian soccer giants Juventus.
Vialli’s unparalleled charisma earned him the Bianconeri armband, and he perfectly lived up to that responsibility by lifting the much coveted UEFA Champions League trophy in 1996. To this day, he remains the last Juventus captain to have hoisted the “big ears” cup.
Alessandro Del Piero, one of the legends featuring in that stellar Juventus squad, paid tribute to his former teammate with an Instagram post whose caption reads, “Our captain. My captain. Always. Bye Luke.”
Following a four-year stint with Juventus, Vialli signed with English Premier League team Chelsea in the summer of 1996.
Alongside fellow Italians Roberto Di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola, Vialli met with success in his inaugural season at the Bluesclinching the club’s first FA Cup in 27 years.
He undoubtedly established a special feeling with the London-based club, as he would later move on to become their head coach.
Among the many feats of his impressive career, Vialli boasts the record of being the only striker to have won the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup (today’s Europa League) and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
He also collected 59 appearances for the Italy national team and took part in two FIFA World Cup editions, one of which was held on home soil.
However, his favorite memory with the Blues is perhaps the one from 2021, when he was part of the technical staff that led Italy to win the UEFA European Football Championshipa trophy that they last had hoisted in 1968.
Last December, Vialli announced his decision to take a break from his involvement with the Italy national team to focus solely on improving his health conditions.
“The goal is to utilize all my psychophysical energies to help my body overcome this phase of the disease to be able to face new adventures as soon as possible and share them with you all,” Vialli had said to Italian soccer federation FIGC.
Soccer clubs, players and institutional figures have paid tribute to Vialli on Friday, including FIGC president Gabriele Gravina, who said that “nobody will ever forget what Vialli did for Italian soccer and the Azzurri jersey.”