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Liverpool legend Graeme Souness fights back tears in tribute to Gianluca Vialli

Gianluca Vialli’s passing was today confirmed following the Italian legend’s long-fought battle with cancer.

Liverpool legend and pundit Graeme Souness this morning conveyed a heartfelt, glowing tribute to the highly-venerated 58-year-old Italian football icon who has sadly capitulated to his ailment.

Although Vialli spent the majority of his playing career in Italy at Cremonese, Sampdoria and Juventus, he enjoyed three years at Chelsea between 1996 and 1999, scoring over 250 goals in total across the four clubs he represented. He then managed the Londoners and Watford.

The former striker was deeply respected for his contributions within football and was highly venerated in Italy, havinng played for his country at two World Cups and one European Championship before taking on a role within the national team as delegation chief in October 2019.

It was in 2018 Vialli first revealed he had successfully overcome pancreatic cancer and was given the all-clear two years later in 2020. Unfortunately his remission was shortlived as he explained in December 2021 that the disease had reared its sinister head again. Suffice it to say that although cancer may have claimed the life of Vialli at the age of just 58, his inspirational approach to his condition was explained in his 2018 book titled ‘Goals’.

“I am not a warrior. I am fighting cancer. It’s too strong an enemy and I wouldn’t stand a chance,” he wrote. “I am a man on a journey and cancer has joined me on that journey like an unwanted travel companion. My goal is to keep moving, keep walking until he’s had enough and leaves me.”

Souness among those mourning his passing as tributes poured in for the two-time Serie A winner after his death was confirmed by the Italian Football Federation. The pair had been team-mates for two years at Sampdoria and emotion overcame Souness as he remembered Vialli the person, as well as the player.

“I only had the news ten minutes ago, and I can’t tell you how good of a guy he was,” the Liverpool legend said on Sky Sports News. “Forget football for a minute, he was just a gorgeous soul, a truly nice human being. I went to Italy when I was 31 years old, he was 20, and was just fabulous to be around. He was such a fun-loving guy, full of mischief, such a warm individual and a fabulous player.

“I don’t want to talk about his footballing [ability], I want to talk about him as a human being. I’m going to hear a lot of his name, and correctly so with people saying magnificent things about his playing ability, but what a human being. My condolences go to his family and his wife, they have been blessed their paths crossed. His kids were blessed to have a dad like that and his wife was blessed to be married to a man like that.

“I couldn’t tell you nine other people who have impacted my life like that. Not because he did anything for me in particular, I was a senior pro then, but to see him around other people; I think if you crossed his path once or if you were in his company for ten or 15 minutes once, you remember him for the rest of your life. He was just a special person, a really, really special person.”

Struggling to hold back the tears welling up in him, Souness continued to pay his respects before the live broadcast was cut:

“I’m not a doctor or anything but when I looked at him, I thought I saw a man still in the fight during the Euros [2020] – and they went on to win it,” said the Scot. “It’s so typical of him that he kept it private, personal. He took it on, as I’d expect him to take it on: it was his fight, he wanted to deal with it himself and didn’t want to burden other people with it.”