Jan 7 (Reuters) – Italy’s Serie A observed a minute’s silence ahead of Saturday’s games in memory of Gianluca Vialli, while old team mates and rivals paid tribute to the former Italy international.

Vialli, who earned 59 caps for Italy and enjoyed a stellar club career with Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea, passed away on Friday aged 58 after a long battle with cancer.

His former Juventus team mate Gianluca Pessotto read an emotional letter ahead of their game against Udinese on Saturday, saying, “you were a guide for us, on the field and off, a team mate in the locker room and in victory.


“A captain. A friend. I can never forget your sense of humour, your class, your charisma, your tenacity.

“Nobody can ever forget the memories you gave us with your football and your goals. We will miss your smile so much. We are here ready to embrace you, just as we were ready to embrace you in triumph. Bon voyage, captain. We love you.”

Juventus forward Federico Chiesa dedicated their 1-0 victory over Udinese to Vialli, telling DAZN: “He was a wonderful person and I was so lucky to cross paths with him in my life, as he was a real champion, but above all a marvellous human being…

“We could talk for hours about what a great man he was. The victory is for him.”

Italy coach Roberto Mancini, a lifelong friend of Vialli, paid tribute to his “little brother” in an interview with Corriere dello Sport, saying “Gianluca was the best of us, a perfect, courageous man.”

On Friday, Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte opted not to attend a news conference ahead of an FA Cup tie as he mourned the death of his former team mate.

“We had dinner together in London a few months ago as we enjoyed reminiscing about all our adventures and battles in the field,” Conte wrote on Instagram, along with a picture of him and Vialli.

“Unfortunately, you have had to fight a great and terrible battle in life these past few years. I told you and wrote to you that you were always an inspiration to me as my captain and how you were proving yourself strong, proud and brave, fighting like a lion against this disease…”

In a news conference on Saturday, AC Milan manager Stefano Pioli told reporters: “The year 2023 has not started well because we have lost a champion of sport and life, a generous, proper person with unique values.”

Reporting by Aadi Nair and Tommy Lund

Editing by Toby Davis

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