Famous Italian football player Gianluca Vialli has died at the age of 58

East Chelsea and Juventus Star Gianluca Vialli, who has been battling cancer for five years, has died at the age of 58.

Vialli was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and a second time in 2021.

His family’s statement on Friday read: “Surrounded by his family, he passed away last night after a five-year illness with courage and dignity.

“We thank the many who have supported him with their love over the years. His memory and his example will live on in our hearts forever.”

Vialli was part of the coaching staff that led the way Italy for Euro 2020 success, but he left his role with the national team in December for further treatment.

“I know I’m probably not going to die of old age, I hope to live as long as possible, but I feel more fragile than ever,” Vialli said in a Netflix documentary that aired in March 2022.

He described cancer as a “traveling companion” that he hoped would leave him in peace after testing his mettle.

“Illness can teach you a lot about who you are, and push you beyond the superficial way we live,” he said.

After Friday’s news, Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina said: “Gianluca was a wonderful person and left an irreparable void in the national team and in all those who admire his extraordinary human qualities.”

Vialli first appeared in Italy’s third and second tier as a youth player with his local team Cremonese.

He moved to Sampdoria in 1984 and helped the club enjoy one of the most successful periods in its history, winning the Italian Cup three times. In 1990, Sampdoria beat Anderlecht 2-0 to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup after Vaialli scored twice.

In 1991, he played a major role in winning the Serie A league title for the first and only time with 19 goals.

Vialli left the Genoa-based club for Juventus in the summer of 1992, where after a slow start he rediscovered his goal-scoring touch and helped the Turin giants win the Italian league in 1995 and the Champions League the following season.

He joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 1996 and became player manager two years later when Dutchman Ruud Gullit was sacked.

Under Vialli, Chelsea won the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup two years later before he was also sacked.

His last managerial role was in charge of Watford in the English second tier in 2001 and 2002.

In October 2019, Vialli was appointed Italy’s new head of delegation, meaning he was reunited with head coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend and strike partner when they both played for Sampdoria, where they were known as the “goal twins”.

Mancini and Vialli lifted the trophy at Wembley Stadium to guide the Italians to Euro 2020. His Sampdoria team lost to Barcelona in the European Cup final at the same ground 29 years ago.

The pair celebrated with a tearful embrace that “was more beautiful than when I passed him the ball and we hugged each other after he scored,” Vialli said in a TV interview with Italy’s RAI in November.

Vialli left a wife and two daughters.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.

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