Football News

Gianluca Vialli: The football world pays tribute to former Italy and Chelsea striker

By Harry Edwards

Published: 11:40, 6 January 2023

Italy legend Gianluca Vialli has passed away at the age of 58.

Vialli spent the large majority of his playing career in Italy, coming though the ranks at Cremonese to truly make a name for himself in an eight-year stay with Sampdoria.

It was his partnership with Roberto Mancini which led Sampdoria to their first ever Serie A title, with Vialli scoring 19 goals in the league. Vialli also won the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Coppa Italia three times during his time at Sampdoria, while also reaching the 1992 European Cup final, where they were narrowly beaten by Barcelona.

His impact at Sampdoria saw Juventus fork out a world record fee of Β£12.5m to sign Vialli, claiming another Scudetto as well as the Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup and Champions League. It was during his time at Juventus that Vialli became better known and well-loved by English fans thanks to Channel 4’s Football Italia, though he had already grown something of a cult following on these shores during his Sampdoria stint.

Vialli finally made his way to England in 1996, joining Chelsea as they looked to build a European side with more flair, moving away from the struggles of the previous decades. Still at the top of his game and fresh from Champions League glory, Vialli helped Chelsea win the FA Cup in his first season. He would later go on to become player-manager at Chelsea, taking them to another FA Cup final win, the UEFA Super Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and also the quarter-finals of the Champions League in their debut campaign.

Vialli left Chelsea with five trophies in total, also claiming the League Cup and Charity Shield, making him the second-most successful manager in the club’s history behind only Jose Mourinho on the men’s side.

“This is truly an awful day for Chelsea Football Club,” Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly and co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali said in a statement released on the club’s website.

“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.

“We send our heartfelt and deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Vialli would go on to manage Watford before turning to punditry, eventually returning to the Italy set up in a non-coaching role alongside childhood friend and former Sampdoria partner Mancini.

When news broke of Vialli’s passing, tributes came flooding in from across the football world, with Graeme Souness — who played with Vialli at Sampdoria — wanting to focus on him as a person.

“I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football for a minute, he was just a gorgeous soul, he was just a truly nice human being,” Souness told Sky Sports News.

“I went to Italy when I was 31 years old and he was 20, and he was just fabulous to be around. Such a fun-loving guy, he was full of mischief, he was such a warm individual and a fabulous player.

“But I don’t want to talk about his footballing, I want to talk about him as a human being because I don’t remember, when I hear his name, and I’m going to hear a lot of his name correctly so, and people paying plaudits to him and saying magnificent things about his playing ability.

“Yeah, but what a human being. Above all that what a human being. My condolences go to his family and his wife — the kids were blessed that they had a dad like that, his wife was blessed that she was married to a man like that.”

Former England and Liverpool striker Peter Crouch also gave his tribute, having been one of those who grew up watching Vialli on Football Italia.

“I’m genuinely gutted about this,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I had Sampdoria home and away shirts because of him. I tried to replicate his volleys In the park and such a lovely man when I met him.”

“We’ve come a long way together, growing up and searching, winning and dreaming. You’ve arrived little boy, we salute you man,” a tribute on Sampdoria’s website read.

“We will remember you as a boy and a relentless centre-forward, because heroes are all young and beautiful and you, since that summer of 1984, have been our hero. Strong and beautiful, with that 9 printed on the back and the Italian flag sewn on the heart.

“Strongest leader of Sampdoria, paired up front with your ‘twin’ Bobby Gol (Roberto Mancini). In three words: one of us.

“A perception that remained so after having bid farewell to Genoa and the south [of Italy] in tears. That’s right: while raising trophies around Europe with different colours, tracksuits and clothes, Gianluca Vialli was a Sampdorian and the Sampdorians were with Gianluca Vialli. With you, in victory and in defeat, in health and in sickness. In Bern as in Gothenburg, in Marassi on 19 May 1991 as in Wembley a year and a day later. Or like again at Wembley but in July 2021: we were all there in that hug, in that weeping we will never forget.

“We won’t forget your 141 goals, your overhead kicks, your cashmere shirts, your earring, your platinum blonde hair, your Ultras bomber jacket. You gave us so much, we gave you so much: yes, it was love, reciprocal, infinite. A love that will not die today with you. We will continue to love and adore you.”