The football world is still mourning. After the deaths of Sinisa Mihajlovic and Pele, another great champion, Gianluca Vialli, passed away on January 6 in London – where he was hospitalized.
The 58-year-old legend suffered from pancreatic cancer 5 years ago but never wanted to talk about the problem he went through, focusing only on work and football.
Vialli first confirmed he was ill in an interview with Corriere della Sera on November 25, 2018. That’s all there is to it and nothing else. Only a few close family members knew about his illness.
On December 14, 2022, Vialli announced that he had to suspend his commitments to the Italian national team (the role of team leader) when the cancer entered the final stage.
The surgeries, 8 months of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiation and finally farewell to the world. “My body has become like a beast,” Vialli smiled with optimism in his hospital bed in the last days of his life, in a private conversation with renowned journalist Aldo Cazzullo of Corriere della Sera.
During his life, Vialli conquered the pinnacle of Calcio, lifted the biggest football titles at national and international level, scored goals for Italy and for the club he played for. He himself won the special affection of the fans, becoming one of the most beloved players in the boot-shaped country.
Talented and humble player
Coming from a wealthy family, Vialli is a Republican, like “Attorney” Gianni Agnelli – former president of FITA and Juventus. He has always been a different football player for 19 years playing.
Starting his professional career with Cremonese, Vialli peaked with Sampdoria and Juventus and ended his adventure with Chelsea.
In the 1980s and 1990s, almost everyone was talking about Vialli. Diego Maradona gave him special compliments when they were rivals. During his career, Gianluca scored 259 goals for clubs and 16 goals for Italy.
In Sampdoria, Vialli teamed up with Roberto Mancini to become one of the most beloved couples of all time.
The bond between Vialli and Mancini was so special that he named his favorite dogs Gianluca and Roberto.
The pair of cards that match Vialli – Mancini is not only football. What they show on the pitch is technique, sophistication, improvisational play and full of romance. Both turned Sampdoria into a big force, reaching the Champions League final in 1992 and losing 0-1 to Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona, with a Ronald Koeman free-kick.
The defeat to Barca at Wembley also ended Vialli’s journey with Sampdoria, after 321 matches – including 109 consecutive matches, too impressive. He decided to join Juventus.
At Juventus, Vialli won the second Scudetto of his career in the 1994-95 season (before that, he won the 1990-91 season with Samp).
A year later, he lifted the Champions League title as Juventus captain. That victory helped him get rid of the nightmare of losing to Barca that lasted for 4 years.
At the end of his contract with Juventus, Vialli decided to leave according to the Bosman law that was passed not long ago (after the Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman, which allows players to leave freely at the end of their contracts). . He chose Chelsea, the team looking to restart after a period of anonymity.
In February 1998, Vialli became a player and coach of Chelsea. In this role, he and the team won the League Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (the playing field for the Cup winners; now defunct). He hung up his shoes at the age of 35.
“Many Juventus players still text that I am the last captain to lift the Champions League,” Vialli once confided during cancer treatment. After that time, “Old Lady” played 5 other finals and always lost.
But Vialli is always very humble, never promoting himself: “I’m a lucky striker. I get to run to support Mancini, Zola, Baggio, Del Piero…”.
Amulet at EURO 2020
In 2019, after learning that he had cancer, Vialli returned to the Italian team in the role of team leader. Here he reunites with Mancini to remind him of the duo known to the world as “I gemelli del gol” (twins of goals).
Vialli’s role lies between a director and an advisor serving both the player and the team. He was always behind, but never absent from the tour, despite his poor health due to medical treatment.
Vialli accompanies and guides the team until EURO 2020 (playing in 2021 due to the influence of Covid-19), the tournament where they Italy won in the Wembley final against England.
It is the glory that Mancini, under the support of VIalli, won after completing the ideological and tactical revolution that marked a yellow page in the history of Italian football. As a result, the team won 3-0.
Since then, Italy decided to repeat it as a special ritual: the team bus left without Vialli, then stopped after a few meters for the team leader to go up.
The tearful hug between Vialli and Mancini after the EURO championship is an image engraved in the memory of Italians and tifosi around the world.
Vialli was happy: “It was more beautiful than the hugs we gave each other, when I passed the ball to Roberto to score.”
Optimism in the midst of illness
After the European championship title, the cancer got worse. “I would be happy without this ugly thing,” Vialli told journalist Aldo Cazzullo, cutting some lines and images of him on his hospital bed, before the special article was published.
Vialli herself has never been pessimistic about her health. “But I don’t want to hurt those who love me. It’s difficult to say this to my family. I don’t want my parents, wife Cathryn, two young daughters Olivia and Sofia to be heartbroken.”
From victory with Italy and optimism in the hospital bed, Vialli became an example of courage.
“I can’t fight this disease. So I simply see this as a phase of life and one has to live courageously and learn new things from it,” Vialli said.
He said of always dressing modestly even when it’s quite hot: “I go around with a sweater under my shirt, so that other people don’t notice anything, to remain the Vialli they know”.
Journalist Aldo Cazzullo asked Vialli if he thought he would win the hardest match of his life. Gianluca replied, “It’s not about winning, it’s about thinking in a winning way. Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we deal with it. I hope that sentence. My story can help others deal with what’s going on in the right way.”
Vialli sent a message at the end of her life: “I wish one day someone would look at me, think of me and say: Thanks to you, I haven’t given up.” He said that giving up leads to a bad habit.
The legend of Vialli, one of the most beloved people in Calcio history, has left football. The best way to remember him is to never give up!
Ngoc Huy | 10:43 07/01/2023