The footballing world continues to pay tribute to the Azzurri legend, who has died at the age of 64
Former Italy defender Fulvio Collovati has paid tribute to his fellow 1982 World Cup winner Paolo Rossi, saying he was “a friend more than a footballer.”
Rossi’s death at the age of 64 was announced in the early hours of Thursday morning.
He was widely considered to be one of the best strikers of his generation, with his performances at the World Cup making him a national hero.
Collovati played alongside Rossi for much of his international career, as well as against him at domestic level in Serie A.
The former AC Milan and Inter defender says he will remember Rossi as much for his character off the pitch as his talent on it.
“Paolo was a friend more than a footballer,” he told Goal. “We shared almost 15 years as teammates with the Azzurri, from the youth teams to the two World Cups. Then he was also a fair opponent.
“On the pitch, he was a centre-forward who I, playing the defender, marked. He annoyed me many times with his speed and acceleration.
“Life has given him so much, a Golden Ball and a World Cup, but at the same time has also taken a lot from him. He stopped playing at the age of 31 and had injuries. Despite this he was always smiling and therefore loved by the public. He never made a point of being a World Champion and a Ballon d’Or winner.”
Rossi very nearly missed the 1982 tournament having been handed a three-year ban in 1980 for his involvement in a betting scandal. The ban was later reduced to two years, allowing Rossi to compete in the tournament that would define his career.
“As a teammate he was always smiling,” Collovati added. “He was forced to a long period of inactivity for football betting, but he came to the World Cup with a smile and we slowly helped him recover.
“It was the winning move because then it was Rossi who made us win the World Cup.
“It was hard for him, clearly he came from two years of inactivity, if you think that today they cry if they have 15 days without playing. He hadn’t played for two years.
“[Italy manager Enzo] Bearzot trusted him and took him. He trained hard, underwent massages and physiotherapy, but always with a smile. We waited for him and then, in the end, Bearzot was right.”