Fiorentina have confirmed that club captain Davide Astori has passed away.
The 31-year-old centre-back had been capped 14 times by Italy and had enjoyed a professional career spanning 12 years.
Astori and his team-mates were preparing to face Udinese in a Serie A fixture on Sunday before Fiorentina announced the tragic news ahead of the game, which has now been cancelled.
“Fiorentina are profoundly shaken and forced to announce that their captain Davide Astori has died,” a statement posted on the club’s official website reads.
“For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to the sensitivity of the media.”
Astori started out at AC Milan, where he never played a Serie A match, before moving to Cagliari, the club where he made his big breakthrough.
He turned out 174 times for the Sardinians in a six-year spell, during which he made his national team debut with the Azzurri.
In 2014, he was sent on loan to Roma and then a year later made a similar transfer to Fiorentina, but with an obligation to buy at the end of the season.
Astori had established himself as a vital member of the squad and had turned out 27 times for the side ranked 10th in the Serie A standings this term.
The news has been met with huge shock and messages of condolences from the football world , with clubs and players from across the globe sending words of support to Astori’s family.
It has also been confirmed that, as well as the Udinese vs Fiorentina game, the remaining six Serie A matches due to be played on Sunday have been cancelledas a mark of respect following Astori’s death.
The news has rocked Astori’s fellow professionals, with many taking to social media to express their sadness and offer their condolences.
Former AC Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng was among the first.
Radja Nainggolan played alongside Astori at Cagliari and Roma, and posted: “A great player, but even more than that, a great person…How many battles we were in together at Cagliari, then found each other again at Roma… I still can’t believe it… My thoughts are with his family and those close to him… RIP.”
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala posted: “Without words: Rest in peace Davide Astori.”
Roma director Monchi said: “I know the suffering, what you feel, the pain you feel because, unfortunately, I experienced it in person with the unfortunate Antonio Puerta. I wish a lot of courage to his family, his friends and his companions, to Fiorentina and to Italian football. RIP Davide Astori.”
Conosco la sofferenza, quello che si sente, il dolore che si prova perché purtroppo l’ho vissuto in prima persona con lo sfortunato Antonio Puerta.
Auguro molto coraggio ai suoi familiari, ai suoi amici e ai suoi compagni, alla Fiorentina e al calcio italiano. RIP Davide Astori pic.twitter.com/eHuSTmG2pm — Monchi (@leonsfdo) March 4, 2018
Franco Baresi, the legendary AC Milan defender admitted he was “speechless” at the news regarding a player who came through the San Siro side’s ranks. “Incredulous, a tragedy, I am without words. I watched you grow up and was proud of the path you were making. I cling to the pain of your family. RIP Davide,” he said.
Incredulo, una tragedia sono senza parole, ti ho visto crescere e orgoglioso del percorso che stavi facendo. Mi stringo al dolore della famiglia RIP Davide pic.twitter.com/b6alvSRViV — Franco Baresi (@FBaresi) March 4, 2018
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is a Fiorentina supporter, posted: “It seems impossible to me. I am incredulous and I cry with your family and with all of Fiorentina. Ciao Capitano.”
Roma icon Francesco Totti said: “Shocked, incredulous and speechless over this tragedy. I am close to the family and friends of Davide #Astori.”
From Inter legend Javier Zanetti: “Rest in peace. Davide. There are no other words.”
Italy’s World Cup-winning captain from 2006, Fabio Cannavaro, joined the tributes.
Andrea Pirlo added, suggesting that “in the end, the best always go first”.
Ex-Roma manager Rudi Garcia:
La notizia della prematura scomparsa del mio ex giocatore Davide Astori mi addolora. Professionista e ragazzo esemplare. Sono vicino alla famiglia e ai suoi cari. Riposa in pace Davide. pic.twitter.com/f19D1CeDln — Rudi Garcia (@RudiGarcia) March 4, 2018
Former Palermo star Javier Pastore said:
Ex-Fiorentina defender Alessandro Lucarelli: “Every word is useless. Rest in peace captain.”
Roma striker Edin Dzeko:
AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu:
Shocked about the terrible news about Davide #Astori. Thoughts are with his family, his friends and of course players and staff of @acffiorentina #RIPpic.twitter.com/vyL2B7ZEfU — Hakan Çalhanoğlu (@hakanc10) March 4, 2018
Manchester City’s David Silva said: “My deepest condolences to family and friends of Davide Astori. Riposa in Peace.”.
Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos aired his shock at the news: “Shocked by the sad news of the death of Davide Astori. A hug to his family and all of @acffiorentina. Rest in peace, captain. Riposa in Pace, captain.”
Conmocionado por la triste noticia del fallecimiento de Davide Astori. Un abrazo a su familia y a toda la @acffiorentina .
Descansa en paz, capitano.
Riposa in pace, capitano. pic.twitter.com/L3KQ0ymzbk — Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) March 4, 2018
Clubs and associations have also paid tribute to Astori.
Sconvolta dalla tragica notizia, tutta la famiglia della Lega Serie A si stringe attorno alla famiglia di Davide Astori e alla @acffiorentina.
A man who loved football and who grew up as footballer with us. #ACMilan are shocked by the passing of Davide #Astori. It is with great sadness that we offer our deepest condolences to his family and closed ones and to ACF Fiorentina — AC Milan (@acmilan) March 4, 2018
On this day of tragedy, Juventus expresses its deepest condolences to Davide Astori’s family and Fiorentina. — JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 4, 2018
The club is devastated to learn of the death of Davide Astori. The thoughts of everyone at AS Roma are with the player’s family, friends and teammates at this terrible and tragic time. pic.twitter.com/vDlL4LIkJr — AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) March 4, 2018
Everyone at SSC Napoli is shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Davide Astori. Our thoughts are with his family at this terrible time — Official SSC Napoli (@en_sscnapoli) March 4, 2018
Our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of @acffiorentina captain and Italian international Davide Astori, who passed away suddenly last night. pic.twitter.com/j8X2ZKzv4A — UEFA (@UEFA) March 4, 2018
Everybody at Chelsea Football Club is shocked and saddened at the sudden death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and team-mates at this time. — Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 4, 2018
Everyone at West Ham United is very saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Davide Astori. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Davide at this difficult time. — West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) March 4, 2018
We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing all too early of Davide Astori. The thoughts of everyone at the Club are with his friends and family at this extremely difficult time. pic.twitter.com/RSX2ra91So — Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 4, 2018
We’re saddened by the passing of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori. Our condolences are with his friends and family.