The extraordinary life of Gianluca Vialli in the Sky original series ‘The Sunday Man’

The myth of the great footballer lives again in Giorgio Porrà’s exciting story

“Vialli was a formidable center forward. A free spirit, always with a view to tomorrow. He was a man of sport with very pure roots. He was ‘Stradivialli’, as Gianni Brera had nicknamed him, both with goals and with words. He was capable, until the end, of sending powerful, even poetic messages.” It’s January 6, 2023. Cruel day. Gianluca Vialli has just lost his most important match, the one for life. And Giorgio Porrà, Sky journalist, colleague and friend, dedicated this moving memory to him, live on TV. “Vialli was a wonderful human being.” A few days after the first year after the death of the great Sampdoria and Juve footballer, Sky tells the extraordinary story of Vialli’s life and sport, through an original series, created and written by Porrà himself. It is ‘The Sunday Man, Gianluca Vialli – I confess that I have lived’, broadcast from 8 December on the platform’s sports networks.

Porrà explains to Adnkronos what it was like to talk about the genius of Gianluca Vialli. “Complicated, from an emotional point of view. He spent fifteen years with us. Fifteen years in which great friendships were made along the professional path within Sky.” Gianluca was a man gifted with a thousand talents. “And among these there was also that of the communicator. Here he has faced any role: host, commentator, second voice, testimonial for advertising promotions. With me he even acted as a literary reviewer in a program called ‘The wretched Egidio’”. Vialli has always known how to combine the deepest expressiveness with the lightest one. “He was one of the few former champions capable of playing the television role well. He was trained on the model of British TV, and therefore his mission was to sprinkle positivity into any type of story. And he did all these things very well, alternating bar chat with very in-depth technical analysis.”

In Porrà’s memory, Vialli appears as a precise, perfectionist professional. “He always has been, ever since he was a little boy. And even in this new professional dimension he applied himself ferociously. He was capable of reasoning for hours just about the right word to say.” An enviable television rule, in a time when speed devours everything. “Gianluca only said words that were capable of improving the silence. I must say that he was atypical in this too, given the amount of useless words circulating in the media chatter. Gianluca also stood out in this.” Sky brought forward the broadcast a few weeks before the first anniversary of his death. “Because the desire to tell it was too great,” explains Porrà. “It wasn’t easy to choose the tone, choose the content. We had to approach this thing with extreme caution, with extreme sensitivity.” Because Gianluca Vialli is destined to escape any form of oblivion. “His figure will grow larger over time. The story of his life could not be banal, but he had to be extremely careful.” A care that Porrà, together with the other authors, put into the research and collection of testimonies. “We only chose the ones that seemed most suitable to us.”

Painting Vialli’s portrait are Marcello Lippi, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesca Mantovani, “who is the daughter of Paolo, the legendary president of Sampdoria”. And then, to tell it, there is one of his most loyal and brotherly friends. “Massimo Mauro. With him, Vialli had shared a commitment to philanthropy, linked to the foundation for research into ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis”. One of the great virtuous projects that the former footballer had followed for many years. “In the episode Massimo he says it: the positioning of this foundation is all thanks to Gianluca, who spent a lot of effort. And naturally the hope is that sooner or later we will be able to find a cure for ALS, an infamous disease.”

The docufilm narrates not only the most unpublished episodes of Vialli’s personal life, but also those of his brightest sporting successes. Like the trophies won in the 90s: from the Doria scudetto to the Champions League with Juve. “And then there are Gianluca’s goals. I invite everyone to review Gianluca’s goals, because there are his depths in there. It’s as if Gianluca told us ‘take a look at my goals, don’t waste time elsewhere. If you want to understand something about me, look at my goals and see how I sew them on myself’”. In the story there is also the most painful chapter, that of the pancreatic disease, discovered in 2017. Vialli called it by its true and cruder name, “cancer”. Without using too many words. Without fear of falling into taboo. A dignified way to deal with evil. “I would say revolutionary, because he explained many things to us. He explained to us that even a dire diagnosis cannot kill your passions, your daily life, your normality, your affections. And he, until the end, lived this thing with lightness and a smile.”

Among the strongest personal memories of Vialli that Porrà keeps in his heart, there is a Champions League final commented together. “We were in Madrid. Paolo Rossi was also with us, another wonderful human being who left us too soon. We had a lot of fun there. I remember that before the match there was also Fiorello breaking into the study.” But she also remembers his professional lessons, distributed along the path we took together. “I remember him once lecturing me for speaking unflatteringly about the company to some strangers. It was his way of expressing leadership, not only on a football field, but also in other professional dimensions. Gianluca was this one.” In the subtitle of the series, there is a phrase: ‘I confess that I have lived’. It is the title of a novel by Pablo Neruda, published posthumously in ’74. A book of memoirs and memories, “which are discontinuous and at times get lost, because that is precisely how life is”, the Chilean poet wrote in the preface. “My life is a life made up of all lives: the lives of the poet”. Porrà also wanted to include this reference in the name of the documentary film. Because Gianluca Vialli was also a poet. (by Marco Di Vincenzo)