Gianluca Vialli 1964-2023

6 Jan 2023
Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea

Classy striker led the Italian movement to Chelsea in 1990s before bringing success as manager

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A much-loved European legend, Gianluca Vialli brought continental style, skill and success to the Premier League as both a player and manager, showing the way for the Italians who have lit up the competition after him.

After achieving the rare treble of winning the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Vialli took his winning habit to Chelsea.

His arrival at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 1996 as a European champion with Juventus was a significant moment in the history of the Premier League.

It represented the beginning of the internationalisation of the competition as an attractive destination for the world's elite players.

On the pitch, he produced 21 goals and 11 assists in 58 Premier League appearances. And when he became the league’s first Italian manager, he led the Blues to five trophies in two-and-a-half years.

Vialli’s journey to Stamford Bridge began 32 years earlier on 9 July 1964 in Cremona, where he was raised alongside his four siblings.

Successive promotions

He rose quickly through the youth system at Cremonese, eventually making his senior debut with them in Serie C1, aged just 16.

Helping Cremonese win two promotions, reaching Serie A for the first time since their maiden campaign in 1929/30, Vialli caught the eye of Sampdoria, who signed him in 1984.

A year later he made his Italy debut, going on to play in all four of their matches at FIFA World Cup 1986.

Vialli would play at the tournament again four years later and help his side finish third. Overall, he won 59 caps and scored 16 times for his country.

Glittering success

During his eight seasons with Sampdoria, Vialli’s goals helped deliver the club’s only Serie A title in 1990/91, while he also won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.

A world-record transfer to Juventus in 1992 earned him even greater European glory, as he won the 1992/93 UEFA Cup and 1995/96 UEFA Champions League, in addition to domestic trophies.

Having spent his entire life and career in his homeland, Vialli moved abroad to join Chelsea in 1996, leading an Italian movement as Roberto Di Matteo and Gianfranco Zola joined him later that year.

Vialli won the FA Cup in his first season at Stamford Bridge and then became player-manager during the 1997/98 season.

Chelsea manager

He immediately led the Blues to glory in both the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, becoming the youngest manager to win a UEFA competition - a record that stood for 13 years. He went on to oversee victory in the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid.

In 1998/99, Vialli secured a third-placed finish - the club’s best performance for 29 years - and in 1999/2000 he won his second FA Cup, before masterminding a triumph over Manchester United in the Charity Shield.

Vialli departed in 2000 and had a spell in charge of Watford, after making an indelible mark at Stamford Bridge. Many Chelsea fans feel his arrival and tenure laid the foundations for the success that has followed ever since.

The connection was mutual, with Vialli continuing to live in southwest London. 

"I’ve been quite lucky during my career because I’ve played for only four clubs and every time I’ve managed to fall in love," he said, when reflecting upon his career. "With Chelsea fans, I had a fantastic relationship. We fell in love with each other. They never stopped encouraging me and when I became the manager the love and the passion went on."

It was perhaps fitting that his final European triumph came just a few miles away, with Vialli working as chief of delegation for the Italy squad who won the 2020 European Championship at Wembley Stadium.

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