Former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli passed away on Friday, at the age of 58. He had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Vialli, who enjoyed a stellar career with Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea and earned 59 caps for Italy, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. He was given the all-clear a year later only for the illness to return.
“I know that I probably will not die of old age, I hope to live as long as possible, but I feel much more fragile than before,” Vialli said in a Netflix documentary aired in March 2022.
He described cancer as “a travel companion” that he hoped would eventually leave him in peace, after testing his mettle. “Illness can teach a lot about who you are, and can push you to go beyond the superficial way in which we live,” he said.
Vialli was however forced to step aside from his role as head of a delegation with the Italian national team last month, saying he needed to focus on overcoming a new phase of his disease.
Working with the Italy squad, Vialli had been reunited with national coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend and strike partner when they both played for Sampdoria, where they were known as “the goal twins.”
Vialli and Mancini led the Italians to the Euro 2020 tournament in 2021, lifting the trophy in Wembley Stadium where, 29 years earlier, their Sampdoria team had lost the European Cup final to Barcelona.
They celebrated last year with a tearful embrace that “was more beautiful than the hugs we used to give each other when I passed him the ball and he scored goals,” Vialli said in a TV interview with Italy’s RAI in November.