Former Chelsea goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has paid tribute to his fellow Blue and Italian Gianluca Vialli after his tragic passing.
Vialli sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 58, leaving the world of football heartbroken.
Among those affected by the untimely loss were Premier League side Chelsea, who Vialli played for between 1996 and 1999.
The striker went on to become an icon in London and England, following stints at Cremonese, Sampdoria and Juventus.
Vialli even managed Chelsea from 1998 to 2000, and during that time he brought in countryman Cudicini, who went on to become a fan favourite during his decade playing for the club as a goalkeeper.
Cudicini is still with the Blues as a loan technical coach and club ambassador, and spoke to talkSPORT about a tough day at the club.
“I’m at Cobham and this is where I found out the sad news,” he said. “Everybody at the training ground felt the impact on how the day went on.
“We went on the pitch with the first team players and the coaching staff and did a minutes’ silence where we all gathered our prayers and felt close to Luca and his family on this horrible day.”
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Talking about his friend, Cudicini continued: “Luca has always been full of energy. A very positive guy who is always ready for a joke or ready for banter.
“Obviously coming from football, the dressing rooms and the dynamics in there, when I came to Chelsea he wasn’t a player-manager, he was just a manager but he was always ready for a laugh. He was a great person to have around.
“He’s one of those guys who when they walk somewhere, they always have an aura around them. You can sense and you can feel this positive energy and he was like that especially when I moved to England in 1999.
“He was fantastic, very supportive. He knew how big a change it was in football and lifestyle and he was very supportive to all of those changes in my life and my career and I’ll always be grateful for that support.
“He had a great personality. You could see that on the pitch and in the dressing room, he was always the one that was motivating, that was pushing players and teammates.
“I think that the reason he’s leaving such a big gap is because of that. Obviously he had a fantastic career and in Italy especially he’s recognised by many, if not all, as one of the best strikers that we’ve ever had but the human side goes along with it. He was a great man and a fighter on the pitch and as he’s shown, a great man off the pitch as the last five years have obviously been very difficult for him and his family.”
Cudicini hadn’t seen much of Vialli in recent times as he stepped away from football to focus on his health, but knows how important winning Euro 2020 was to Italy’s assistant.
“I didn’t see him a lot but we were speaking every now and then. I met him on the golf course at the end of 2021 after the Euros when he was obviously very happy for the result on the pitch.
“At the same time he wasn’t in a great moment because he was in London going through what was happening to him. Then we spoke a few times last year.
“For me, Luca represents a lot in terms of what happened in my career, but also on a personal level because my move to London meant a big change in my life and I ended up staying here for 23 years and everything that went along with it.
“He’s obviously a very important person, regardless of how many times I’d seen him in the past year, he’ll always have a place in my heart regardless.”
Cudicini added: “I think he’d probably like to be remembered as a joyful guy, a positive guy and a fighter because this is how everyone sees him both on the pitch and off the pitch.
“Personally, I always remember his smile because it was a joy to have him around, but at the same time, everyone could see the spirit and attitude that he had on the pitch, which is the same as he showed in his life as well.
“I believe that is how you can best describe him, as a guy who is known for his football but off the pitch as well and everyone recognising him as one of the greatest footballers in Italy and Europe, as well as a fantastic man.”