Paolo Rossi: Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero dies from ‘incurable disease’ aged 64

Italian footballer Paolo Rossi has died at the age of 64, his family have said.

Rossi became a household name after scoring six goals at the 1982 World Cup in Spain – leading the Azzurri to a third title.

He was the tournament’s top scorer and also won the award for the best player.

At club level Rossi played for Vicenza, earning himself a move to Juventus and much later AC Milan.

Rossi’s death was announced on Thursday morning by Italian TV channel RAI Sport, where Rossi had worked as a pundit.

One of his presenter colleagues, Enrico Varriale, tweeted that his passing was “such terrible sad news”.

He added: “Unforgettable Pablito, who made all of us fall in love in that summer of 1982 and who was a precious and competent work colleague in RAI over recent years.”

Italian media have cited an “incurable disease” as his cause of death.

The striker’s passing comes shortly after the death of Argentinian icon Diego Maradona – who died of a heart attack in Buenos Aires last month.

Rossi’s widow, Federica Cappelletti, posted a photo with her husband on Instagram, captioned “per sempre” – “forever”.

She later wrote on Facebook that “There will never be anyone like you, unique, special…”.

Cappelletti did not disclose the cause of her husband’s death.

Gabriele Gravina, president of FIGC, the Italian football federation, said in a statement: “The disappearance of Pablito is another deep pain, a wound to the heart of all fans, difficult to heal.

“We lose a friend and an icon, who dragged the (1982 World Cup) national team to success with his goals, he took an entire country by the hand, which rejoiced in the streets, for him and with him.

“He has indissolubly linked his name to Azzurro and has inspired, with his style of play, many forwards of future generations.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted: “He was the symbol of a national team and of an Italy, united and tenacious, capable of beating opponents of enormous calibre.

“Farewell to Paolo Rossi, the unforgettable champion. Italy will remember you fondly.”

Born in Prato, Tuscany, the footballer played his entire club career in his home country.

The footballer scored 20 goals across 48 matches while representing Italy and over 100 Serie A goals during his time with five clubs.

Rossi won two Serie A titles, a European Cup and a Coppa Italia during his career, but was most celebrated for scoring six goals at the 1982 World Cup.

He failed to score in the first four games of the competition, but later redeemed himself by scoring a hat-trick against Brazil in the second group stage, which sent Italy through to the semi-finals.

Here, Rossi was able to help his team win 2-0 against Poland.

On a winning streak, the striker opened the scoring in the final as Italy beat West Germany 3-1 to claim their third World Cup – and their first since 1938.

He was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1982 – the third Italian to win the prestigious prize at the time.

Rossi was banned for three years as part of the “Totonero” match-fixing scandal in 1980 – almost missing the tournament that wrote his name into football history.

He had always maintained his innocence, and the ban was later reduced to two years, giving him the opportunity to return to the game just in time for Italy’s 1982 World Cup victory.

Before this event, Rossi had also scored three goals at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

With a total of nine World Cup goals, he remains Italy’s joint-highest scorer at the tournament, alongside Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.

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