Soccer

Graeme Souness breaks down in Gianluca Vialli tribute live on air

Emotional Graeme Souness breaks down live on Sky Sports News, cutting short a segment while paying tribute to ‘gorgeous soul’ and former Sampdoria team-mate Gianluca Vialli, after his death at 58

  • Gianluca Vialli dead: Ex-Chelsea and Italy striker loses cancer battle aged 58
  • Graeme Souness was asked for his tribute during an interview on TV on Friday
  • The emotional former Liverpool boss broke down in tears halfway through 
  • OBITUARY: Vialli was football’s ‘Lion King’ and he showed his class until the end 
  • LIVE: Follow all the latest updates as tributes pour in for the popular Italian 

Graeme Souness broke down in tears as he paid an emotional tribute to his former team-mate Gianluca Vialli, following his death at the age of 58.

Vialli died surrounded by family on Thursday night following a five-year battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Souness, who played with Vialli at Italian side Sampdoria, was live on Sky Sports News speaking to presenter Hayley McQueen when he was unable to carry on his tribute. 

Graeme Souness broke down in tears when discussing the death of Italian icon Gianluca Vialli

Souness (left, circled) was a team-mate of Vialli (right, circled) during his time at Sampdoria

Asked for his most recent memory of Vialli, who was being treated at a London hospital prior to his death, Souness said: ‘Well, I’m not a doctor, Hayley, but when I looked at him I thought I saw a man who was still in the fight when he was here in the Euros. 

‘I think it’s so typical of him that he kept it so private, so personal and he took it on as I would expect him to take it on. 

‘It was his fight, he wanted to deal with it himself. He didn’t want to burden other people with it…’

Souness could then no longer hold back the tears and Sky made the decision to quickly end the interview, not before thanking the pundit for his words. 

Vialli (right) and Roberto Mancini (left) were known as ‘The Goal Twins’ at Sampdoria 

 Vialli was a key figure in Italy’s run to winning Euro 2020, serving as their head of delegation

GIANLUCA VIALLI’S LAST PUBLIC WORDS 

Speaking on December 14, announcing he was leaving his role with the Italy team, Vialli said:

‘At the end of a long and difficult ‘negotiation’ with my wonderful team of oncologists I have decided to suspend, I hope temporarily, my present and future professional commitments.

‘The goal is to use all the psycho-physical energies to help my body overcome this phase of the disease, so that I will be able as soon as possible to face new adventures and share them with all of you.’

Souness and Vialli, along with Italy boss Roberto Mancini, had a close relationship during the Scot’s time in Italy, and Vialli once recalled the time Souness pushed him into a lake as one practical joke went too far. 

‘On a matchday on a Sunday morning I was in my club suit and he thought it was funny to push me into the lake!’ Vialli told Sky Sports’ Goals on Sunday show.

He then added he ‘got his own back’ soon after.

‘He could take a joke, give it back to you and while he was older than me we had a fantastic relationship and he really looked after me.’ 

Vialli enjoyed a prestigious career where he represented Italy in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, won the Champions League with Juventus in 1996 and gained popularity in England during a short spell at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian would serve as Chelsea’s player-manager and then manager, leading them to the European Cup Winners’ Cup and the League Cup in 1998, plus the FA Cup in 2000.

His final role in football came with the Italy national team and he played a role in guiding them to win the 2020 European Championships in England.  

On December 14 he had to step away from the role due to the aggressive return of cancer. 

In his final public statement he said he hoped his absence from the national team was ‘temporary’. 

‘At the end of a long and difficult ‘negotiation’ with my wonderful team of oncologists I have decided to suspend, I hope temporarily, my present and future professional commitments,’ he said.

‘The goal is to use all the psycho-physical energies to help my body overcome this phase of the disease, so that I will be able as soon as possible to face new adventures and share them with all of you.’

A supportive banner had been left by fans outside the hospital where Vialli was being treated

Vialli was a prolific striker for Sampdoria and Juventus in Italy, then for Chelsea in England

His death follows a battle with pancreatic cancer, with his condition worsening in the week leading up to Christmas and family rushing to his bedside in a London hospital.

Sampdoria fans also showed their support until the end as they hung a supportive banner outside the London hospital where he was being treated. 

‘I am deeply saddened,’ said Italian Football Federation president Gabriele Gravina. 

‘I hoped until the end that he would be able to perform another miracle, yet I am comforted by the certainty that what he did for Italian football and the blue shirt will never be forgotten. 

‘Gianluca was a splendid person and he leaves a void that cannot be filled, in the national team and in all those who have appreciated his extraordinary human qualities.’ 

Vialli was diagnosed with the illness for a second time in 2021, having been given the all-clear in April 2020 following a 17-month struggle.

Vialli lifts the Champions League after Juventus defeated Ajax on penalties in the 1996 final

Last year a candid Vialli opened up on how ‘fragile’ he was and how he never believed he would win any battle with cancer. 

‘I was a player and a strong man but also a fragile one and I think someone who might recognise himself. I’m here with my flaws, fears and desire to do something important,’ Vialli said.

‘I’m not having a battle with cancer because I don’t think I’d be able to win it, it’s a much stronger opponent me.

‘Cancer is an unwanted travel companion, but I can’t help it. He got on the train with me and I have to go on, travel with my head down, never giving up, hoping that one day this unwanted guest will get tired and let me live peacefully for many more years because there are still many things I want to do.’


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