Italy WC hero Paolo dies

Afp, Milan

11 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Italy WC hero  Paolo dies

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.

"There will never be anyone like you, unique, special, after you the absolute nothing...," she added on Facebook.

The cause of Rossi's death was not revealed but Italian media reported he had been suffering from "an uncurable disease".

Tributes flooded in for 'Pablito', who was banned for three years for his part in the betting scandal, but returned to win the World Cup in Spain and the Ballon D'Or the same year.

Rossi scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for Italy, and more than 100 Serie A goals with Italian clubs including Juventus, Milan and Verona. In the 1982 World Cup he was top scorer with six goals.

Goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who captained the 1982 winning side, described Rossi as an "extraordinary footballer, excellent teammate and friend".

He said Rossi's ban -- later reduced to two years -- did not bother him, as "we knew who Paolo Rossi was, what a serious person he was and what an extraordinary footballer we had with us".

"He was irreplaceable in that group. And the relationship with him was great. We were a team of friends, a great group," Zoff said.

Juventus said on the club's website: "'Pablito' has passed away: for the entire nation, he was the man of an unforgettable Mundial, and for us, he was so much more." Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte paid tribute to an "unforgettable champion", saying that his goals that summer "gave a dream to an entire generation".

His death comes just two weeks after Argentina football legend and former Napoli star Diego Maradona died aged 60.