The great Gianluca Vialli has sadly lost his battle with cancer and died at the age of only 58.
The former Italy striker was not only one of the great players of his generation, but a cult hero among all football fans of the 1990s. He was one of the stars synonymous with Channel 4’s iconic Italian football highlights show, making him a popular figure in Ireland and the UK, before he became one of the first international superstars to move to the Premier League with Chelsea.
Vialli retired in 1999, and progressed into a career in coaching which saw him manage Chelsea and Watford, before moving on to a coaching role for Roberto Mancini’s Italy team.
It was as part of that coaching team that he became one of the icons of Italy’s EURO 2020 win, with both hilarious and heartwarming moments in the Italy camp and on the sidelines.
Gianluca Vialli: Legendary forward was an icon of Italy’s EURO 2020 win
Gianluca Vialli was known not only for his immense footballing ability, but for his big personality. He played with an energy on the pitch which radiated into his personality di lui off it, and that was showcased in brilliant fashion in the Italy camp during their EURO 2020 campaign.
He arrived with the coaching staff under the stewardship of manager Roberto Mancini, a decades old friend of Vialli’s, after their shared time at Sampdoria during their playing careers.
Ahead of Italy’s opening game of the tournament against Turkey in Rome, Vialli was late for the team bus at the hotel. When Italy went on to win 3-0, they decided to have a bit of fun with the idea, and made it a pre-game ritual for the bus to mimic departing before Vialli would catch up just in time.
During Euro 2020, Gianluca Vialli was late for the Italian bus before the opener against Turkey. After winning that game, they purposely made sure that he was late for every other fixture for the rest of the tournament 💙pic.twitter.com/IBmxDQMmZM
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) January 6, 2023
Italy gained momentum with three wins from three in the group stages, and began to dream of upsetting the odds and going all the way.
The last 16, however, saw Italy come up against a stern test from Austria, requiring extra time to see off their neighbours. When Italy finally took the lead in extra time, the joy between Vialli and his old friend Mancini was one of the most wholesome moments of the tournament. The bounding run from Vialli to Mancini is just terrifying.
— UEFA EURO 2024 (@EURO2024) July 2, 2021
And, when Italy ultimately did manage to reach the final, that was one-upped with a beautiful moment on the Wembley touchline.
A tense and dramatic final against England went all the way to penalties, with the home crowd roaring on England. Vialli, who played in three major tournaments for Italy during his playing career, couldn’t bring himself to watch.
Brilliant video footage from the sidelines shows Vialli with his back turned to the shoot out, judging the result of each spot kick by the reaction of the crowd. Mancini briefly comes over to check on him, before returning to the rest of the backroom team.
Gianluca Vialli was unable to watch the drama of the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout. Roberto Mancini gave him regular updates throughout of what was going on. pic.twitter.com/sHt8pTWOFp
— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) January 6, 2023
The best part of the above video is that Vialli appears to not realize that Italy have won for a few seconds after Bukayo Saka’s penalty was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma. When it finally does sink in that the noise he is hearing is in fact Italian fans cheering, not English, his joyful reaction from him captures the moment perfectly.
And, of course, there was a beautiful embrace between him and his former Sampdoria teammate and old friend Roberto Mancini, with both in floods of tears on the pitch.
This will be forever in my head.
Vialli and his very good friend Mancini, in tears, after Italy won the Euros.
Today is a very sad day.
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) January 6, 2023
The loss of Gianluca Vialli has hit football hard, especially at such a young age. Even in his coaching career, he gave us so many brilliant moments.
It’s rare that a coach other than the manager will become an icon of any cup run, and it is testament to Vialli that his antics at EURO 2020 are remembered so fondly.
He will be sadly missed. RIP.