By Abba Gwale
The star of Italy’s victorious 1982 World Cup campaign, Paolo Rossi, has died at the age of 64.
His death was announced on Thursday morning by Italian TV channel RAI Sport, where Rossi had been working as a pundit for many years.
“Such terribly sad news: Paolo Rossi has left us,” RAI Sport presenter Enrico Varriale tweeted.
“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.”
Rossi’s wife, Federica Cappelletti, posted a photo of herself and her husband on Instagram along with the words “per sempre” – “forever”.
Rossi won two Serie A titles, a European Cup and a Coppa Italia during his playing career but will be most fondly remembered for his six goals at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
After failing to score in the opening four games of the tournament, Rossi scored a hat-trick against Brazil in the second group stage to send Italy through to the semi-finals, where he scored a brace in a 2-0 win over Poland.
The former Juventus and AC Milan 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, becoming only the third Italian to win the award at the time.
Born in Prato, Tuscany, Rossi played his entire club career in Italy. He was banned for three years in 1980 as part of the “Totonero” match-fixing scandal but always denied any wrongdoing.
The ban was later reduced to two years, allowing him to return to the Italy squad ahead of the victorious 1982 World Cup campaign.
He also scored three goals at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, and with a total of nine goals, he remains Italy’s joint-highest scorer at the World Cup with Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.