"The unwanted guest is still here with me."

Gianluca Vialli described the return of his pancreatic cancer in December with the same gentle charm that has endeared him to football supporters throughout his career.

The 57-year-old is currently battling the illness for the second time having overcome it once already. And if he keeps fighting with the same determination that propelled him to greatness on the pitch, you wouldn't bet against him beating cancer again.

It's sometimes easy to forget just how talented Vialli was, perhaps because he played during a golden era of great Italian strikers. Baggio, Totti, Del Piero, Mancini, Zola, Ravanelli, Chiesa. But Vialli's CV holds up against all of them.

The son of a self-made millionaire, Gianluca was born in the Lombardy region of northern Italy and brought up with his four siblings in the 60-room Castello di Belgioioso in Cremona.


young vialli


It was from the 14th-century castle that he would regularly make the 90-minute round trip to local amateur side AS Pizzighettone at the start of his football journey, before moving to Serie C side Cremonese and making his debut at just 16.

His penchant for scoring goals soon alerted Sampdoria, the club where he would spend eight seasons, finding the net 85 times and in the process cementing his status as a Blucerchiati legend.


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A trophy-laden spell at Juventus would follow, as would a stint in the Premier League with Chelsea as the autumn of his career turned to winter.


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But perhaps, in a career bedecked with special moments and achievements, it was his time with Samp and, in particular, the 1990/91 season that stands out.

Vialli had endured a miserable World Cup in 1990, failing to score and missing a penalty. The man who many thought would fire the hosts to glory had come up short, outshone by Roberto Baggio and the unfancied Toto Schillaci.


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That disappointment makes what happened next even better. 

Sampdoria's one and only Scudetto in 1991 (they'd never finished higher than fourth previously) was as unexpected as it was magical. And it was their talismanic centre forward, castigated only months earlier, who led them to success, shaking off his Italia '90 hangover and finishing the season as Serie A top scorer.




He was at times unplayable that season, as he plundered 19 league goals, at times almost single-handedly dragging Samp to victory.

Finding the courage and grit to rediscover his potent brilliance after such disappointment tells you all you need to know about Vialli: a fighter and a true man of redemption. 
Forza Gianluca.
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