Farewell to Vialli, the darling of Italian football / Italy / Death of Gianluca Vialli / SOFOOT.com
With Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea he won everything. Championships, Cups and especially all European Cups. Gianluca Vialli was a champion, the boy who marked Italian football. Most importantly, he is an inspiring man, who played a key role in the Euro 2020 conquest, alongside Roberto Mancini. Vialli died this Friday, January 6, at the age of 58, after pancreatic cancer. Too early, too young.
Images of them embracing after Italy’s coronation at Euro 2020 will remain etched in the memory of Italians. Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini. Twin goals. From Sampdoria to Nazionale. From Wembley 92, where they lost the C1 final together, to Wembley 2021, where they won the European championship hand-in-hand. The two were inseparable, and this Friday, January 6, Mancio and all of Italy woke up bruised: Gianluca Vialli was gone. Since 2018, the former Samp and Juventus striker has been battling pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive, which we have won very rarely. In a long interview given last year, he spoke of this cancer as a “well done travel companion” . Vialli, a great football intellectual and philosopher, had come to understand that illness would not leave him, and that he had to live life while there was still time. On December 14, two days before Siniša Mihajlović’s death, he announced that he had to suspend his activities by Nazionale to concentrate on his battle. Four weeks later, Italian football has lost another giant.
From Cremona to Genoa, big jump
Some players are one club person. Gianluca Vialli achieved an even greater feat: belonging to three clubs. At Cremonese, where he started in Serie A, at Sampdoria, where he won the Scudetto, and at Juventus, where he lifted the Champions League, the player was adored, adored. 113 games with Cremona, 328 with Samp, 145 with Juve, and over 200 goals in all. A “logical” career, a perfect rise: first a hometown club, then an “average” team that would sublimate and achieve unprecedented feats, then a very large club, and finally an experience in the ‘foreigners’. He won everything he could win there, championships, Cups and Super Cups, and he is, on top of the cake, the only player in history to have won all three European European Cups: C1 with Juventus (1996), C2 with Sampdoria (1990 ) and Chelsea (1998) and C3 with Juventus (1993).
“Juve wanted me, but President Mantovani explained the Samp project to me. For me, it’s very clear: Juve can wait. » Gianluca Vialli
Like many Italian children born in the 1960s and 1970s, Gianluca Vialli started playing football atoratoriothis typical Italian parish grounds. “I learned to play football with the priests, in return I went to the catechism” he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera. Coming from a wealthy family, he quickly left school for football. He made his youth debut at Pizzighettone, then moved to Cremonese for half a million lire, and signed a professional contract there at the age of 17. “As a child I was an Inter fan, but Cremonese will always be my favorite team. » And for good reason: it was in Cremona that Vialli made a name for himself. During the 1983-1984 season, under the direction of Emiliano Mondonico, he shone and made a major contribution to his glorious season. Grigorossi, who won their rise in Serie A. But Vialli will not offer his tifosi the joy of a season in the elite under their liquette. During the summer of 1984, he transferred to Sampdoria. “Juve wanted me, but President Mantovani explained the Samp project to me. For me, it’s very clear: Juve can wait. he assured.
Due to the vicissitudes of fate, the first day of Serie A offered Vialli Sampdoria-Cremonese. 1-0 win, page turned. Above all, in Genoa, Vialli met Roberto Mancini. Friends at first sight. “Brother, even. Roberto, I probably haven’t spoken to him for a few months, and when we saw each other, it was as if we had never left each other. We share so much on the pitch…” At the end of this first Genoa season, Vialli lifted his first trophy: the Coppa Italia won against Milan, with one goal in the final. Enough for Enzo Bearzot to call him in Nazionale in November 1985. His career really launched.
The adventure in Genoa was a real fairy tale for Vialli, who has established himself as one of the best players in the championship, in Serie A where Diego Maradona, Michel Platini and Zico played. “Samp is growing little by little. First Italian Cup. Then the Cup final, lost. Then the Cup final, won. And then 1991, the year of achievement. » That achievement is clearly the Scudetto won by Sampdoria under the nose and beard of Inter and Milan Sacchi. Vialli and Mancini, the goal twins, wrote their names in legend. Vialli became the top scorer in Serie A with 19 pieces, Mancini set up 12 pieces. “All of Italy is with ushas informed the goalkeeper, Gianluca Pagliuca, in the column So Foot. We have been playing together for ten years, we are a very popular team, the small against the big, and everyone wants the small to win in the end. And then, a lot of us refused to go, and people found out. This loyalty pleases the Italians. »
“Barca-Samp? For four years, I replayed this match in my nightmares. » Gianluca Vialli
The following year, Sampdoria reached the final of the Champions League, against Barça. Perhaps the biggest regret of Vialli’s career, which was terrible throughout the competition. But that day, at Wembley, he missed two big chances: on the first, he shot a few yards from goal; the second, he tricked Zubizarreta with a slight dive, but the ball ended up dead a millimeter from the post. The epilogue is cruel: Koeman’s goal in extra time and the win for Barça. “For four years, I repeated this match in my nightmares” convinced Vialli, who left for Juve in stride.
With the Nazionale, appointments are almost missed
Juventus will be the final consecration for Vialli, who consoled himself for a lost C1 by winning the UEFA Cup in his first season in Turin. After years of having fun with Mancini, Vialli has now developed alongside Roberto Baggio, Fabrizio Ravanelli and Alessandro Del Piero, under the orders of Marcello Lippi who arrived in the summer of 1994 and who Vialli defined as his “messiah” . This Juve, champions of Italy in 1995, reached the final of the Champions League in 1996, against Ajax. For Vialli, this is the second chance to win the cup with big ears, four years after Wembley. Final score 1-1, match decided by penalty shootout. Juve won after just 4 shots on target… to the delight of Vialli, who is a regular fifth shooter. “It was such a relief for me (doesn’t have to shoot, editor’s note). That game was played at the Stadio Olimpico, and on this page, I have already taken two penalties: once against Roma, I missed and broke my leg on a shot, another against the US in the 1990 World Cup, also missed. I know it is my last chance to win the Champions. So imagine if with all that, I had to take the last shot on goal…”
“Every World Cup has a shining star, here is Toto Schillaci, and a shooting star, here I am. Everything happened to me: calves, thighs, bronchitis… I only played two and a half matches, it was very frustrating. » Gianluca Vialli
Well, the 1990 World Cup… Half-tone memories for Vialli which, with Nazionale, will not know the joy experienced at the club, such as the World Cup at home which ended in the semifinals, against Argentina. Vialli: “Every World Cup has a shining star, here is Toto Schillaci, and a shooting star, here I am. Everything happened to me: calves, thighs, bronchitis… I only played two and a half matches, it was very frustrating. » Finally, his referral tournament with Azzurri will still be Euro 1988, there is also a semi-final finish. Too small for a player of this caliber, who played his last international in 1992, aged just 28. In 1994, in time for the America’s World Cup, he was still at the top of his career with Juve, but he turned down a call from Arrigo Sacchi. “With Sacchi it was a clash of personalities. With him, there is no balance between tension and calm. He kicked me off the team in 1992, convinced that my hesitation would create negative energy in the group; and he’s right. I was wrong to refuse, when he called me back twice, before and after the 1994 World Cup. I am sensitive. An azzurro jersey can never be denied. »
In 1996, with the Champions League in hand, Vialli, then 32 years old, left to end his career in England, at Chelsea. Where he still had time to win the Cup Winners’ Cup (1998) and the UEFA Super Cup (1998), the fourth and fifth European trophies of his career. At Chelsea, he also experimented with the position of player-manager, replacing Ruud Gullit, sacked in February 1998. His coaching career was very short, but crowned with success: in three seasons on the Chelsea bench, from 1998 to 2000, he won. five trophies, while Chelsea have not won anything since 1970. However, he did not aspire to a coaching career, and after a brief one-year experience at Watford (2001-2002), he decided to pursue a distinguished career as a consultant. on SkySports.
“You never want to hurt the people who love you: my parents, my brothers and sisters, my wife Cathryn, our daughters Olivia and Sofia. And you feel ashamed, as if what happened to you was your fault. I used to walk around with a sweater under my shirt so people wouldn’t notice, so I was always the Vialli they knew…”
In 2018, Gianluca Vialli has spoken out about his illness, with humility and courage. “I know it’s hard and difficult to tell other people, to my family. You never want to hurt the people who love you: my parents, my brothers and sisters, my wife Cathryn, our daughters Olivia and Sofia. And you feel ashamed, as if what happened to you was your fault. I used to walk around with a sweater under my shirt so people wouldn’t notice, so I was always the Vialli they knew…” A year later, in 2019, he joined the ranks of the Italian Federation as delegation head for the national team, coached by his lifelong friend, Roberto Mancini. As such, he took part in Italy’s triumph at Euro 2020, and occupied a leading role in the dressing room. Where, regularly, he talks to the cast, listens to them, and motivates them by reading, aloud, passages from his favorite books. Before the final against England, Vialli specifically reclaimed Men in the Arena, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech delivered on April 23, 1910. And when Gigio Donnarumma saved the last shot against Bukayo Saka, Vialli fell into Mancini’s arms. An eternal embrace, where disappointment and joy mix, smiles and tears, this 1990 World Cup and 1992 Wembley, the 1991 Scudetto and this Euro 2020. A thousand moments in life, a man who will remain an example to everyone who meets him. Addio, Luca is great.
By Eric Maggiori
All comments are taken from an interview with Corriere della Sera