Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli has passed away at the age of 58 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The former Juventus and Italy striker was initially diagnosed during 2017 and revealed he had been given the all-clear three years later - but he stepped away from football in December after being re-diagnosed last year.
However, his family have now released a short statement confirming he passed away on Thursday evening. It read: “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 became one of the most feared strikers in Europe during a goal-laden career in Serie A as he found the net for the likes of Cremonese, Sampdoria and Juventus before making a free transfer switch to Chelsea in the summer of 1996.
Taking on a role as player-manager following Ruud Gullit’s departure, the Italian led the Blues to two FA Cups, two League Cups, a Cup Winners Cup and a UEFA Super Cup prior to his surprise exit within the first five games of the 2000/01 season. His final managerial role would come at Watford just over two years later. In recent years he has formed part of Roberto Mancini’s backroom staff with the Italian national side - although he stepped away from the role last month as his battle with cancer continued.
A number of supporters and former clubs have paid tribute to the former Italy star, with Sampdoria, where he scored over 140 goals during 328 appearances, releasing an emotional statement describing Vialli as ‘strong and beautiful’.
In an emotional statement, Sampdoria, where Vialli scored over 140 goals in 328 appearances during his playing career, paid tribute to their former striker saying: “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 because – as you well know – you are better than Pelé. And because, despite everything, our beautiful season is destined to never end.
“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.”