Mark Hughes, who took part in a moving tribute to Gianluca Vialli at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, has spoken of his former team-mate’s infectious personality and believes the Italian should be remembered as “one of the best Chelsea managers of all time”.
The Bradford boss took to the pitch alongside a number of other former team-mates of Vialli before Sunday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, as the Blues paid their respects to the Italian at their first home match since his death earlier this month from pancreatic cancer aged 58.
Former striker Hughes and Vialli shared a dressing room for two years at Chelsea, with the Italian not only a team-mate but also, for the final months of Hughes’ time at the club, his boss in his role as player-manager.
Hughes, 59, told the PA news agency: “He was a great team-mate, we spent a couple of years both as a player and as a manager and you look back and reminisce about the moments you had with him.
“He didn’t impose his personality on people in a bad way, it was always to make people feel better and happier and he certainly did that, and was just a great guy.
“The one thing that’s been prevalent with everyone that has been asked for comments about Luca is it was always about his personality, his manner and his professionalism as well, because he was an outstanding footballer in his own right.”
Hughes believes Vialli should be remembered as a true Blues great after helping them to domestic and European success in their couple of years together at Stamford Bridge.
Vialli won the FA Cup in his first season at Chelsea in 1997 before, now as player-manager, leading the club to League Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup success the following year.
In total Vialli won five trophies in less than three years as Chelsea manager, a tally only bettered by Jose Mourinho.
Hughes added: “In terms of what he achieved, he was more successful as a manager in terms of trophies, so he will be viewed as one of the best Chelsea managers of all time.
“It was just his empathy for players. Given the preparation and how hard he was working, we felt we needed to reciprocate that on the pitch for him.
“He was a guy who was exposed to a lot of things in life and had grown as a consequence of that and that moved him to bring all these players from different countries and make them work and combine to make a successful team, so that was a huge skill.”
Hughes said Vialli managed to maintain the respect of everyone around him even after becoming player-manager.
He said: “He loved going out and loved London, he used to love going out with his team-mates.
“He felt he had to just create that distance straight from the off, rather than letting it develop as a consequence of doing a different job, but everybody totally respected what he did. He was professional and incredibly successful both as a player and as a manager.
“Maybe some of his relationships changed with the team, but each and every one of them had the utmost respect for him as a player and a person and that’s why we were able to win trophies.”