Milan: Paolo Rossi, who fired Italy to victory in the 1982 World Cup after almost missing the tournament through a match-fixing scandal, has died aged 64, prompting an outpouring of grief and tributes.
Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti announced the death in an Instagram post featuring a photo of the couple, accompanied by the comment “Forever,” followed by a heart.
She did not disclose the cause of his death.
“He didn’t want to go, I hugged him tightly and told him ‘Paolo, now go, you have suffered too much’,” Cappelletti said.
“It is not easy to summarise in a few words all that Paolo was,” she continued.
“A unique person, full of optimism even in the most difficult moments, a great person but at the same time simple. He knew how to talk in the same way with Heads of State but also with the people we met at the supermarket. This was Paolo and this was his greatness,” she further added.
Rossi’s funeral will take place in his adopted city of Vicenza, in northeastern Italy, with his ashes returned to his native Tuscany, Cappelletti added.
Rossi won the hearts of Italian fans when his goals propelled Enzo Bearzot’s Azzurri — who started the tournament with three uninspiring draws — to a third world title.
He exploded onto the stage of the 1982 tournament with a hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat of Brazil.
In the semifinals he scored both goals as Italy beat Poland 2-0, and he hit the opening goal in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.
Goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who captained the 1982 winning side, described Rossi as an “extraordinary footballer, excellent teammate and friend”.
“He was irreplaceable in that group. And the relationship with him was great. We were a team of friends, a great group,” Zoff said.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte paid tribute to an “unforgettable champion”, saying that his goals that summer “gave a dream to an entire generation”.
“You will always remain our hero. Ciao Pablito,” Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo, wrote on Twitter.
“Paolo was a friend, a golden boy: benevolent, humble and intelligent. He will be forever remembered by the (Juventus) team and everyone with a black and white heart,” France football legend Michel Platini, who played alongisde him at Juventus, said in a statement.