Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi has died aged 64, his family says.
Rossi became a household name after leading the Azzurri to victory at the tournament in Spain, finishing as top scorer and being named best player. At club level he first came to prominence as a prolific scorer for Vicenza, earning a move to Juventus and later playing for AC Milan. His death was announced on Thursday, following what Italian media report had been a long illness. Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti posted a picture of them together on social media with the words “Per sempre” (“forever”). She did not disclose the cause of his death. Rossi scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for the Italian national side, and more than 100 Serie A goals during spells with Vicenza, Perugia, Juventus, Milan and Verona. Following his performances at the 1982 World Cup, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or which at the time was given to the European footballer of the year. After retiring from football in the late 1980s, Rossi worked as a pundit for Sky, Mediaset and Rai. The Italian football federation (FIGC) said flags would fly at half-mast at its headquarters in Rome and its technical centre in Florence. “Pablito’s passing away is another moment of deep pain, a wound to the heart of all fans that is difficult to heal,” said FIGC president Gabriele Gravina. “We’ve lost a friend and an icon of Italian football. “In spurring the national team on to success in 1982, he had Italians celebrating in squares across the country, both for him and with him. “He indelibly tied his name to the Azzurri and, through his style of play, inspired numerous strikers of future generations.” European football’s governing body, UEFA, said “a moment of silence” would be held before Thursday’s Europa League matches to honour the player. A statement from Vicenza, who Rossi helped win promotion to Serie A in 1977, said: “Sometimes there are simply no words to express the pain we are all experiencing.” Milan, where he played in the 1985-86 season, said Rossi would “forever be in our memory”.