Rome (AP) – Italy mourns a football hero: Former world champion Paolo Rossi died in a hospital in Siena on Thursday evening, a hospital spokeswoman for the German news agency confirmed.

Football clubs, politicians and the media recalled his performance at the 1982 World Cup with photos of the cheering striker, when Italy beat Germany 3-1 in the final and won the title for the third time. Rossi’s wife Federica Cappelletti announced the death of the 64-year-old early on Thursday morning with posts on social media.

“In the summer of 1982, he gave entire generations a dream with his goals”, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wrote about the striker on Twitter. “He was the symbol of a national team and an Italy, united and tenacious, capable of defeating opponents of enormous size,” said the prime minister enthusiastically. “Addio campione” – goodbye, champion – Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook. He recalled that Italy could beat Rossi teams like “Brazil with Zico, Argentina with Maradona, Germany with Rummenigge”.

Rummenigge was also concerned. “The death of Paolo Rossi shocked me. Paolo was my friend and a great goalscorer. We often played against each other in Serie A,” said FC Bayern’s CEO. He played in the Italian league for Inter Milan in the 1980s. “Paolo was very humorous and full of life, a very likeable person who you could always have fun with. And he was a great footballer,” Rummenigge said according to the club’s website.

Rossi, who led Italy to the World Cup title in 1982 with Rummenigge in the final against Germany, died after a long illness, according to media reports. According to Ansa news agency, the ex-footballer had to undergo surgery a few months ago.

Rossi scored a 1-0 win against Germany in the World Cup, scoring a total of six goals in the last three matches of the tournament in Spain, becoming the tournament’s best player – and a football legend in his home country. In 1982 he also received the Ballon d’Or, which at the time went to the best football player in Europe. “Ciao Pablito, a symbol of joy, revenge, generosity, compassion, success and pride for all Italians. A human hero and a world legend,” FIFA boss Gianni Infantino said in honor of the exceptional player.

“Ciao Paolo” wrote the Serie A club Juventus Turin on the internet about a large portrait of Rossi and said goodbye to the star player. Rossi was discovered as a young athlete in the northern Italian city in the 1970s and after several positions there also played in the Italian top class.

Rossi was born in 1956 in Tuscany, in Prato. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was involved in a gambling scandal in Perugia. Rossi was temporarily banned by the Italian federation, but then he was able to show off at his World Cup in 1982.

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