Gianluca Vialli, one of Italy's greatest men

Remembering a person after passing away is one of the easiest things in life. It often leads to focusing on just the good things or trying to pretend that you always liked or supported that individual, which leads to the remembrance feeling shallow or forced. However, when it comes to a football legend of the caliber of Gianluca Vialli, one of football's great and an icon for all the clubs he played for, the praise is more than warranted.

Gianluca Vialli
When the legendary Italian forward passed away in January 6th of 2023 after a long struggle with cancer, there were a lot of deserved tributes to a man that led Sampdoria to historical heights, helped Juventus go back to the summit of European football, aided Chelsea in times of need for greater success and retired as simply an amazing footballer. And did all of this with class, professionalism and dedication.

This is Gianluca Vialli and this is his story.

The beginning and the Goal Twins in Sampdoria

Born in Cremona, Italy, in July of 1964, Gianluca Vialli started at youth level with his local team, Cremonense, and made his professional debut in 1980 in Serie C1, playing as a winger during those years. Despite being mostly known for his iconic bald look, Vialli was of a much smaller frame and having curly hair.

He started to make a name for himself in Serie B when he scored 10 league goals in 38 games in the 1983/84 season, gaining the attention of Serie A side Sampdoria, with Vialli almost making a seamless transition to top flight football in the 1985/86. It would be in Sampdoria where Gianluca would meet a person that would define a lot of his career, Roberto Mancini.

Mancini and Vialli would develop a very strong partnership in attack and they would be the leading figures in the most successful period in Sampdoria's history during the late 80s and early 90s. Nicknamed as the "'I Gemelli del Gol" (The Goal Twins), these two players scored a lot of goals on a regular basis, developing a strong friendship that lasted even more their playing days and helping Sampdoria a Serie A title (1990/91), three Coppa Italia trophies (1984/85, 1987/88 and 1988/89), a Supercoppa Italiana (1991), a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (1989/90 and a runner-up medal in 1988/89) and a runner-up medal in the 1991/92 European Cup final, losing to the legendary Dream Team of Johan Cruyff's FC Barcelona.

That final in Wembley against the Spanish giants would prove to be Vialli's final match as a Sampdoria player, though. After almost a decade of world class performances, constantly scoring more than ten goals each season, the Italian forward wanted to take things to the next level.

There lied Juventus.

Juventus and Chelsea

Juventus, one of the biggest clubs in Italy and the entire world, would decide to make Gianluca Vialli the most expensive player in football at the time by paying around 16.5 million euros for his services in the summer of 1992. At a time where Juve were struggling to keep up with the rest of Serie A and were no longer the dominating force of the league, they found in Vialli a talisman for their success.

Vialli would end up playing in Juventus for four years, helping Lippi's team achieve a lot of things, including winning the UEFA Cup in 1993, a league and cup double in the 1994/95 season and winning the UEFA Champions League in the 1995/96 season against Ajax, who were the reigning champions. The image of Vialli lifting the Champions League is now part of Juventus' history, cemented as one of their greatest moments.

After having won pretty much everything there was to win in Italy, established as one of the best forwards in the world for an entire decade, Vialli decided that it was time to try something different and went to Chelsea in the English Premier League. He helped the Blues win the FA Cup and League Cup in the 1996/97 season and also the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in the 1997/98 season, which led to him becoming one of the club's fan-favorites at the time.

Vialli also stood out in 1998 when he replaced Ruud Gullit as player/manager, thus becoming the first main Italian coach in the Premier League. And one of his best achievements in his tenure, which lasted from 1998 to 2000, was reaching a third place with Chelsea in the 1998/99, only four points champions Manchester United, thus being the Blues' best position since 1970.

He later spent a year coaching at Watford, but the results were not there and ended up in a massive legal issue with the board as he was demanding to be paid the remainder of his contract after being sacked. Afterwards, Vialli decided to stop coaching and only came back when his longtime friend, Roberto Mancini, asked him to be his assistant in the Italy national team, which led to them winning the 2020 Euros against England in Wembley.

One of the most poetic and emotional moments of that final was when Vialli and Mancini shared a hug in the celebration, which reminded a lot of old school football fans about their bonds as both footballers and longtime friends, and it would be a fitting epitaph to one of the finest players and men that Italian football has ever produced.


Gianluca Vialli was a very consistent striker, producing a good amount of goals in pretty much season he played for and helping his teams win a lot of accolades and trophies, which is particularly impressive when is taken into account that only Juventus were truly a big club during his career. That shows the kind of player that he was and the impact that he had.

Above all else, everybody spoke highly of him as a person and as a gentleman, which is something much greater than any possible medal in the game. And that is an achievement that belongs to Gianluca Vialli.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.