Italy’s World Cup hero Paolo Rossi dies at 64

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Paolo Rossi, a hero of Italian football who inspired the side to the 1982 , has died aged 64, Italian media reported on Thursday.

They paid tribute to ‘Pablito’, the star who was banned for his part a betting scandal but returned to win the and the Ballon D’Or the same year.

Rossi’ wife Federica Cappelletti announced the with a post on Instagram alongside a photo of the couple, accompanied by the comment “Forever,” followed by a heart.

“There will never be anyone like you, unique, special, after you the absolute nothing….,” Cappelletti also wrote on Facebook.

The news of his passing comes two weeks after the of Argentina football legend Diego Maradona, winner of the 1986 .

Rossi was credited with inspiring Italy to third World Cup triumph Spain 1982.

But Italy’ sporting icon almost missed out on the tournament.

He was caught in a bribery scandal, and banned for three years in 1980, but after continually protesting his innocence was cleared to play.

A slight and sprightly winger who converted to centre-forward, Rossi had an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.

He exploded onto the stage of the 1982 tournament with a hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat of Brazil.

In the semi-finals he scored both goals as Italy beat Poland 2-0, and he hit the opener in the 3-1 win West in the final.

Rossi finished top scorer in the tournament with six goals.

He was also a member of the Italy side that finished fourth in Argentina in 1978.

Along with Christian Vieri and Roberto Baggio, he holds the Italian record for nine goals scored in the World Cup.

He scored 20 goals in 48 appearances for Italy and was voted Footballer of the Year in 1982.

Born in Prato in Tuscany, Rossi made his professional debut at Juventus in 1973, and also played for Vicenza, Perugia and AC Milan before finishing his career in 1987 in Verona.

With Juventus he won two Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia, the Cup Winners’ Cup, and the Cup.

After his career as a footballer, Rossi worked as a TV pundit.

He is survived by his wife and three children.