EPL

'Goodbye Luca, fellow traveller' – Zola and Del Piero pay tribute after death of Vialli

By Sports Desk January 06, 2023

Gianfranco Zola joined a cast of Italy greats in paying tribute to Gianluca Vialli, after the former Juventus and Chelsea striker died at the age of 58.

As well as being team-mates with Italy and Chelsea, Zola and Vialli were also rivals on the pitch for a large part of their careers, with Zola a standout fantasista for Napoli and Vialli a figurehead forward for Sampdoria and Napoli.

Zola also had a spell of playing at Chelsea when Vialli became manager, and it was reported at the time he was unhappy with being given limited playing opportunities by his compatriot.

However, Zola said on Friday there was "the utmost respect" between the men, as he remembered Vialli in a poignant message.

Zola wrote: "Together we won many matches and shared some of the best moments of our lives.

"For the love of our ball we have often clashed. With no quarter, but always with the utmost respect.

"Because, in the end, we were always ourselves: two Italian boys and a ball. Goodbye Luca, fellow traveller."

Both were signed by Chelsea boss Ruud Gullit in 1996, at a time when high-profile foreign imports to the Premier League were still few and far between.

Vialli went on to become player-manager in 1998, giving up playing duties a year later before being sacked by chairman Ken Bates in September 2000.

In Italy, Vialli was a revered figure, shining alongside Roberto Mancini for Sampdoria before heading to Juventus in 1992, winning a Serie A title with both teams and a Champions League in 1996 with Juve.

He was skipper as Juventus beat Ajax on penalties to be crowned European champions, with that Juventus team including stars of the calibre of Antonio Conte, Alessandro Del Piero, Ciro Ferrara, Didier Deschamps and Fabrizio Ravanelli.

Del Piero posted on Instagram: "Our Captain. My Captain. Always. Goodbye Luca."

There was a similar message from Ravanelli, who wrote simply: "Goodbye captain."

Gianluigi Buffon, the former Italy goalkeeper, posted a picture of a Sampdoria shirt he had been given by Vialli.

"You were a giant, on the field and in life," Buffon wrote. "You fought to the end with your head held high with unique dignity. This shirt you gave me is priceless and every time I look at it I can't help but say thank you for everything you've done. The emptiness you leave is huge."

Former defender Ferrara added: "How can I let you go? You were like a brother."

Angelo Di Livio, the former Juventus and Fiorentina winger, told Tuttomercatoweb.com how Vialli had "made me grow both as a man and as a player".

Di Livio said: "Those who have not had the pleasure of meeting Gianluca have lost a lot, they have lost a real man, a great champion.

"We will always all be connected because he was our leader, our captain, perhaps the most important player in Lippi's first Juve who took us by the hand and led us to great victories, great triumphs."

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