Former Chelsea player and manager Gianluca Vialli has died aged 58

Vialli went on to enjoy huge success as Chelsea manager following his glittering playing career, Credit: PA

Friends and fans paid tribute to the former Chelsea player and manager Gianluca Vialli who has died aged 58.

The Blues great had been receiving ongoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

The world of football thanked him for his contribution to European football and opening the doors for Italian managers in the Premier league.

Chelsea FC tweeted: “You’ll be missed by so many. A legend to us and to all of football. Rest in peace, Gianluca Vialli.”

Vialli, who went on to enjoy huge success as Chelsea manager following his glittering playing career, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and announced he had been given the all-clear in 2020 after treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

He was re-diagnosed with the disease in 2021 and announced last month that he had stepped down from his role as Italy’s national team delegation chief.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported before Christmas that his 87-year-old mother Maria Teresa and brother Nino had travelled to be with Vialli in a London hospital.

During a 16-year playing career in Italy, Vialli won every major trophy on offer, including Serie A titles with Sampdoria (1991) and Juventus (1995), the Champions League with the latter in 1996, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. He was also a four-time Coppa Italia winner.

Gianluca Vialli in 1998. Credit: PA

He scored 16 goals in 59 appearances for Italy, featured in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups and helped the Azzurri to a third-place finish at the latter, while his £12.5million transfer from Sampdoria to Juventus in 1992 was a world record fee at the time.

Vialli played a key role in Italy’s Euro 2020 success in England under head coach Roberto Mancini.

The former Sampdoria and Juventus star made 88 appearances for Chelsea before going on to manage the club between 1998 and 2000.

During his time as boss at Stamford Bridge, his side picked up the League Cup, FA Cup, the European Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.

The Federation’s president Gabriele Gravina said in a statement: “I am deeply saddened – I hoped until the last that he could perform another miracle, yet I am comforted by the certainty that what he did for Italian football and the blue shirt will never be forgotten.

Gianluca Vialli celebrates with the Coca-Cola Cup trophy in 1998. Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 2-0. Credit: AP

“Gianluca was a wonderful person and leaves an unfillable void, in the national team and in all those who appreciated his extraordinary human qualities.”

Former England striker Peter Crouch tweeted: “I’m genuinely gutted about this. 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. Rip.”

Graeme Souness played alongside Vialli at Sampdoria and paid tribute to him on Sky Sports.

A visibly emotional Souness said: “I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football, he was just a gorgeous soul. He was just a truly nice human being.

“He was just fabulous to be around. He was such a fun-loving guy, full of mischief, wonderful footballer and a warm human being.

“People will say things about his magnificent football ability, and correctly so, but above all that what a human being. My condolence go to his family – the kids were blessed to have a dad like that, his wife was blessed to be married to a man like that.”

The Chelsea Women’s squad took part in a minute’s silence before training in tribute to Vialli.

The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust described Vialli as a “foundational pillar” in ushering in a trophy-laden era at Stamford Bridge.

“The CST is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli,” a statement read.