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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

"A special guy and a special player”: Mark Hughes remembers Chelsea legend Vialli

Chelsea favourite Mark Hughes paid tribute to former Stamford Bridge team-mate Gianluca Vialli following the Italian’s passing late last week.

Hughes played with the ex-Juventus and Sampdoria striker for two years in south-west London, with Vialli going on to become the Welshman’s manager at the end of their second season together.

Now in charge of League Two side Bradford City, Hughes fondly remembered the Champions League winner following a goalless draw against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.

“Gianluca was a special guy and a special player, and an even bigger personality and bigger man,” said the former Manchester United and Barcelona forward. “All those who had the pleasure of knowing him will say the same thing.

“He lit up a room when he walked in, there was a smile on his face in every situation. He was always trying to look at the funny side of everything. People would gravitate towards him, they just liked to be in his company.

“He’s going to be sorely missed by everybody.”

Hughes arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer before Chelsea signed Vialli from Juventus in 1996 and admitted that whilst there was at times tension between them for a starting berth in attack when Ruud Gullit was manager, it never impacted the pair’s personal relationship.

“I kept him (Vialli) out of the team after he had a bit of a falling out with Ruud,” revealed the former Fulham boss. “I benefited from that, but there was no resentment from him, or from me towards him.”

Even if Vialli’s start to life in the Premier League was not straightforward, there can be little doubt that he was a hero by the time he left Chelsea in September 2000.

After winning the FA Cup as a player in 1997, the Italian also lifted the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup as player-manager the following year, before adding the UEFA Super Cup, a further FA Cup and the Charity Shield before his departure.

Hughes believed that it was Vialli’s commitment to bettering himself that helped him triumph at Stamford Bridge.

“He was always trying to get better at everything he attempted,” he said. “Be it his English – he was forever writing post-it notes to stick places so he could keep learning.

“Even when he was struggling when he came here initially, he got his head down and understood what was required, worked harder, and that’s why he had the success in his life that he did.”

Hughes suggested that the influence of Vialli played a role in his own transition from player to manager before summing up his current adventures with Bradford in a way that surely would have entertained his avuncular former team-mate.

“I get a little bit frustrated on occasions, as you probably saw today,” confessed Hughes with a smile. “Decision-making, not only from my own players but also officials sometimes frustrates me.

“It’s great though. On Saturday afternoon at three o’clock, it’s where you want to be.”


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