Paolo Rossi, Italy’s legendary footballer who won in 1982, dies at the age of 64

Paolo Rossi, a hero from Italian football who fired Azzurri to victory in the 1982 World Cup, has died at the age of 64, causing an exhaustion of grief and tributes.

Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti announced the death with a post on Instagram along with a photo of the couple, accompanied by the comment “Forever” followed by a heart.

“There will never be someone like you, unique, special, after you the absolute nothing ….”, Cappelletti also wrote on Facebook.

The cause of his death was not revealed, but Italian media reported that Rossi had suffered from “an unbearable illness”.

Tributes were paid to ‘Pablito’, the star who was banned for three years for his part in a betting scandal, but returned to win the World Cup in Spain and the Ballon D’Or the same year.

Although they broke down early, Italian media sprinkled with the news, while social media lit up with tributes and “Paolo Rossi” was Italy’s main search object.

“Football and Italy mourn Paolo Rossi,” the Gazzetta dello Sport headline, as La Stampa called him “Spain’s Hero 82”.

The news of his death comes two weeks after the death of Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, the winner of the 1986 World Cup.

Bribery scandal

Rossi won the hearts of Italian fans in the summer of 1982, when his goal drew Enzo Bearzot’s Azzurri to a third world title.

Italy started the tournament with three uninspiring draws before they became lively and marched to the title.

But Italy’s sports icon almost missed the tournament.

He got caught up in a bribery scandal and was banned for three years in 1980, but after protesting continuously, his innocence to play after two was cleared.

A small and sharp wing that converted to center-forward, Rossi had an incredible ability to be in the right place at the right time.

He exploded on stage in the 1982 tournament with a hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat for Brazil.

In the semifinals, he scored both goals when Italy beat Poland 2-0, and he beat the opener in the 3-1 victory against West Germany in the final.

Rossi finished top scorer in the tournament with six goals.

He was also a member of the Italian side that finished fourth in Argentina in 1978.

Together with Christian Vieri and Roberto Baggio, he holds the Italian record for nine goals in the World Cup.

He scored 20 goals in 48 games for Italy and was named European Footballer of the Year in 1982.

Heysel tragedy

Born in Prato, Tuscany, Rossi made his professional debut at Juventus in 1973, but his first two-year spell at the Turin Club was injured by a knee injury.

His first club success was with Vicenza where he was the top scorer in Serie B with 21 goals during the 1976-1977 season and helped the club to the top flight.

The following season, Vicenza challenged Juventus for the league title and Rossi ended the season as the top scorer in Serie A with 24 goals.

He spent another season with Vicenza, but after being relegated, he left a loan spell in Perugia and became involved in the 1980 match scandal called Totonero in Italy.

As a result, Rossi missed the European Championship in 1980, where Italy finished fourth at home.

After his suspension, Rossi returned to Juventus and the 1983-1984 season was his most successful at club level.

He formed a formidable partnership with Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek and collected trophies – two Serie A, the Italian Cup, the Cup of Cups and the European Supercup.

In 1985, the Juventus European Cup won in the middle of the tragedy in the final of the Heysel Stadium, where 39 fans were killed, which would be Rossi’s last match with ‘Bianconeri’.

He went to rivals AC Milan during a failed season that was overshadowed by injury, as well as his last season in Greece Verona.

In 1987, at the age of 31, Rossi decided to turn the page after almost 400 league matches and 154 goals and 48 internationals and 20 goals for Italy.

After his career as a football player, Rossi worked as a TV expert.

“Such terrible sad news: Paolo Rossi has left us,” said RAI Sport presenter Enrico Varriale.

“Unforgettable Pablito, who made us all fall in love with the summer of 1982 and who was a valuable and competent work colleague at RAI in recent years. RIP dear Paolo.”

Rossi is survived by his wife and three children.

(AFP)