Paolo Rossi, the Italian goalscoring hero in his 1982 World Cup winning campaign and scorer of a hat-trick against Brazil in one of the most famous matches in the history of the competition, has died at the age 64.
The famous striker’s death comes as the football world still mourns for Argentina icon Diego Maradona, who died late last month.
Italian TV channel RAI Sport, where Rossi worked as an expert, said Thursday that “Pablito” had died of an “incurable disease”.
Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti posted a photo of herself and her husband on Instagram with the words “per semper” – “forever”.
Cappelletti said he died in her arms. She said Rossi died in her sleep in hospital after promising her that she would take care of their children and assured her that he “had already done so much”.
“He didn’t want to go, but I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Paolo, go now. Enough, you have suffered enough. Now leave this body, ”she said. “And then he fell asleep.
“There will never be anyone like you, unique, special,” Cappelletti later wrote in Italian on Facebook.
Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Gabriele Gravina said Rossi was “indelible with the blue jersey and his style of play has inspired many strikers for generations to come.”
Rossi enjoyed a remarkable career comeback, leading Italy to the World Cup title after returning from a suspension following a betting scandal in 1980.
He scored six goals in the tournament in Spain, including a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Brazil and the opening goal in a 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.
He also won the 1982 Ballon d’Or naming him the best player in Europe.
Rossi won two Serie A titles and a European Cup while playing for Juventus. He also played for AC Milan before embarking on sports broadcasting on the best Italian networks.
‘Lost an icon’
The FIGC said it will display flags at mid-range as a sign of mourning.
“We have lost a friend and an icon of our football,” said Gravina of FIGC.
“He took an entire country by the hand, which rejoiced in the streets, for him and with him. He is permanently linked to the Azzurri and inspired generations before with his style.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte offered his condolences, posting on Twitter that Rossi was a player who “gave entire generations a dream with his goals in the summer of 1982”.
Former teammate Fulvio Collovati told RAI Radio 1 he received the news of the phone chat used by members of the 1982 squad, many of whom expressed their devastation over Rossi’s death.
“I heard five minutes ago. I am really sorry. It was out of the blue, ”former teammate Dino Zoff told ANSA news agency. “It had been a while since we last spoke, he had said something but we didn’t think it was that bad.
RAI sports presenter Enrico Varriale, who worked with Rossi, posted on Twitter about the star striker’s death.
“Very sad news: Paolo Rossi has passed away,” Varriale wrote. “Unforgettable Pablito, who made us all fall in love in the summer of 1982 and who has been a valuable and competent collaborator at RAI in recent years. RIP dear Paolo. “
In a statement, Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino said the Italian league was in mourning.
“Paolo Rossi made us feel proud to be Italian,” said Dal Pino. “He was the hero of all of us.”
Cappelletti said a memorial service was planned in Vicenza and Rossi’s remains would be cremated, a decision she made in agreement with their children.
“I want to have him near me forever,” she said.