John Terry has paid an emotional tribute to fellow Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli who has died aged 58 following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. The Italian Football Federation said Vialli’s death left an ‘unfillable void’, while Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali described an ‘awful day’, and vowed Vialli’s legacy would be ‘forever written’ at the club.
Vialli, who went on to enjoy huge success as manager at Stamford Bridge 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.
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 joined Chelsea in 1996 and helped them win the FA Cup at the end of his first season before guiding the London club to glory in both the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup as player-manager the following season.
Terry was handed his senior debut by Vialli during his time in charge at Stamford Bridge and the club’s most successful ever captain admitted he had been left heartbroken by his former manager’s death. He wrote on Instagram:
‘Hearbroken. Luca Vialli RIP. The man who gave me my debut at Chelsea and I will be forever grateful. ‘A true gentleman who will be truly missed. My love and condolences are with the Vialli family at this incredibly sad time.’
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, a former teammate of Vialli’s at Juventus and international level, understandably skipped his side’s pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against Portsmouth. In his absence, Conte’s assistant Cristian Stellini hailed the impact of Vialli in opening the door for Italian managers to work in the Premier League.
‘Antonio (Conte) in this moment is upset and sad,” Stellini said. ‘Every one of us we are close to Vialli’s family and all the people that loved Vialli. He is an important person in Italy and also in England so we are close together to stay with his family and remember him in the right way.
‘For us he was a great player but first of all he was a great man. He teach us a lot of things, also not only when he played but when he speak with everyone. If you know him and people that know him can only speak great about him because he is a great guy.
‘He opened the door for Italian managers because was the first and in that moment maybe the Premier League for us was a different country for Italian managers. In that moment the Premier League grow a lot and overcome Serie A in Italy. ‘Now we have to say thanks to Vialli for opening the door and letting us understand how important football is in Europe to open doors and create because also Italian managers came into the Premier League and improved the Premier League so we did it together. It is a great thing.’