Thursday 10 December 2020, 16:57

Tributes flood in for the late, great Pablito

  • Former Italy international Paolo Rossi has died

  • The striker made his mark on FIFA World Cup™ history

  • The world of football has paid tribute to him

A little over two weeks after the death of Diego Maradona, fellow FIFA World Cup™ star Paolo Rossi has departed us, at the age of 64. Just as Maradona did four years later at Mexico 1986, the Italy forward led his side to glory at Spain 1982, albeit in a very different manner. Though less flamboyantly gifted than the Argentinian, Rossi had a flair of his own and a remarkable instinct for goalscoring.

His six goals in that campaign, all of them scored in the knockout phase, made him a national hero and a global star, to whom the football world has been paying heartfelt homage. rounds up the tributes to Pablito.

The Italian flag is at half-mast to pay tribute to Paolo Rossi, who passed away this week

The Italy flag was flown at half-mast in tribute to Paolo Rossi at the Home of FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland.

A hero to young players

Spain 1982 saw football move on to another level as a televised sport. Rossi made a huge impact with his exploits, inspiring a whole generation of future professional players in Italy and elsewhere.

“When I was a boy and I played football in the street, Paolo Rossi was to Italy what Pele and Maradona were to Brazil and Argentina,” wrote Milan idol Clarence Seedorf on Instagram. “We’ve lost a football icon, but above all we’ve lost a true gentleman. My condolences to his family and friends. Thank you for everything you did for this game we love so much.”

“For everyone, like me, who wanted to be a centre-forward, you were a source of inspiration,” wrote Filippo Inzaghi, another Milan legend. “You were my childhood idol. Ciao, Paolo. You will always be in our hearts.”

(Rest in peace, great Pablito. You were our hero)

(“Rest in peace champion and national idol. We will never forget you.”)

Rossi’s feats in Spain also fired the imagination of those who were too young to see them live. “I was born on 5 July 1982 but my father started talking to me about you from that day on,” said Alberto Gilardino, a world champion with La Nazionale in 2006. “As I grew older, he told me more and showed me more pictures. I think I was born under your star. I believe in fate.”

A warm-hearted man

His former team-mates and anyone who came across him talk of a down-to-earth, affable and amiable man. “We always got on so well with Paolo,” said legendary Italy goalkeeper and fellow 1982 world champion Dino Zoff, talking to Gazetta Dello Sport. “We had a fantastic relationship. He was so kind.”

“Goodbye, Pablito. You made us so happy,” said former Italy midfielder Demetrio Albertini in tribute. “It was an honour for me to meet you and to feel the warmth of your smile.”

“Michel Hidalgo, Robert Herbin, [Diego] Maradona, and now Paolo Rossi – that’s enough, 2020. That will do,” Michel Platini, Rossi’s former Juve team-mate, told L'équipe. “Paolo was a great player, a great goalscorer, and everyone remembers his World Cup in 1982. We played for three seasons together at Juventus, from 1982 to 1985, and we won the lot. In 1982, he came back a hero from the World Cup, but he shied away from all that. He didn’t play up to it.”