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Graeme Souness breaks down live on Sky Sports when paying emotional tribute to Gianluca Vialli

Graeme Souness breaks down live on Sky Sports News when paying an emotional tribute to Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli, who has died.

The former Chelsea striker and manager, who also played 59 times for Italy, was diagnosed with pancreatic carcinoma in 2017. However, he said that in April 2020 that he was given the all clear.

Vialli had his condition re-diagnosed in 2021 and in December 2022, he left his position with the national team of Italy to concentrate on his health.

The FIGC state that a minute’s silence in memory of the legend will be held before all Italian matches this weekend.

Sampdoria, whom he won the Serie A title and European Cup Winners’ Cup in eight seasons with the club said: “We won’t forget your 141 goals , your overhead kicks, your cashmere shirts, your earring, your platinum blonde hair, your Ultras bomber jacket. You gave us so much, we gave you so much: yes, it was love, reciprocal, infinite. A love that will not die today with you.”

His former club Juventus said: “We loved everything about you, absolutely everything – your smile, your being a star and leader at the same time, on the pitch and in the dressing room, your adorable swashbuckling ways, your culture, your class, which you showed until the last day in the black and white stripes.”

A Chelsea statement said: “A brilliant striker, a trophy-winning manager and a wonderful man, Luca’s place in the pantheon of Chelsea greats is assured. He will be deeply missed.”

Watford, who he managed, said: “All at Watford FC are saddened to learn of the passing of our former manager Gianluca Vialli. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Souness said on the death of Vialli: “I only heard the news… sorry. I only heard the news 10 minutes ago and I can’t tell you how good a guy he was. Forget football for a minute, he was just a gorgeous soul.

“He was just a truly nice human being. I went to Italy when I was 31 years old and he was 20. He was just fabulous to be around.

“He was such a fun-loving guy, he was full of mischief, he was such a warm individual and a fabulous player. But I don’t want to talk about his football, I want to talk about him as a human being.

“When I hear his name, and I’m gonna hear a lot of his name, correctly so with people playing plaudits to him and saying magnificent things about his playing ability, yeah. But what a human being.

“Above all that, what a human being. My condolences go to his family and his wife. They’ve been blessed that their paths crossed, the kids were blessed they had a dad like that, his wife was blessed she was married to a man like that.”

But after speaking for over eight minutes, Souness was overcome with emotion. When discussing Vialli’s battle with cancer, he said: “It was his fight, he wanted to deal with it himself, he didn’t want to burden other people with it… sorry.”

He broke down in tears before presenter Hayley McQueen stepped in to stop the interview and thank Souness for his words. McQueen said: “Graeme, we’re going to leave it there, I’m so sorry for you for your loss of your former team-mate and your friend.

“We’re ever so grateful, I’m sure those who are watching will be so grateful that you’ve managed to share such heartfelt memories of Gianluca Vialli.”

Watford head coach Slaven Bilic paid tribute to former Hornets boss Gianluca Vialli: “It’s a sad day. I’m not just saying that as Watford manager, although he was part of our club and the club should be proud that one of football’s legends was with Watford.

“I didn’t know him personally but I’m sad. When you say Vialli, you mean a world-class footballer in every sense of the word. When you say Vialli, you have to say [Roberto] Mancini and when you say Mancini, you have to say Vialli.

“As a person, I have never read anything bad about him. I know a lot of people who played with him and he is only four years older than me; we are from the same generation. Some of my friends played with him, I played against him and they say he is one of the biggest gentlemen in football.

“To know that he fought cancer for five years, he deserved to live for centuries. It’s very sad. After Pelé, to lose Vialli too; Vialli was one of the Pelés of his generation, a truly top footballer on and off the pitch.”

Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler: “The foreign influence of the Premier League was really taking a hold then (when Vialli moved to Chelsea) in terms of big-name players coming in. The Premier League was five, six years old when Gianluca arrived, and it was big news.

“Sometimes you think you might get players at the tail end of their careers – he’d done a lot in football on the field when he came but he certainly didn’t short-change Chelsea, and he was certainly exciting for us at Sky Sports as the broadcaster.

“He was box office and that wasn’t just on the field. He always had time for everybody off the field – he was a charmer and I can’t believe we’ve lost him.

“He had the personality and the character to deal with the difficulties (of being a manager), and, of course, he was such an icon for the players, most of whom had played with him. They loved him and respected him – he was the sort of guy you’d go into battle for, I’m sure, as a Chelsea player, and the trophies won prove that.

“This was pre-Abramovich, of course, It wasn’t the sort of rich team’s gig that it is today. It was a chance to take the club up the ladder, and certainly did that – he did it with a smile.

“He was such a strong guy. That’s what makes it so tragic that it happened at such a young age. He was the sort of guy that always gave you a hug, and I can remember this vividly. I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a hug, and I hugged back – it was like hugging a block of iron. He was so strong and to have known him was a privilege.”

League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan: “I feel privileged to have known Gianluca personally for 15 years.

“He was always supportive of our work at the LMA. He showed a particular interest in the career development of younger coaches and managers, a true reflection of his genuine humility and his care for his colleagues throughout football.

“We have lost one of the kindest and most charismatic men we have ever met in the world of sport.

“Our sincere condolences are with Gianluca’s wife Cathryn and all of his family and friends at such a sad time.”

LMA chairman Howard Wilkins: “Gianluca came to England as one of the game’s most revered players, at a time when the Premier League was beginning to attract the best global talent.

“His footballing ability and leadership qualities were clear for all to see from day one at Chelsea. The early success he enjoyed in his managerial career showed the promise of a coach armed with the tactical nous of the Italian greats.

“He was a passionate football man, who cared deeply about the game and its future. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

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