Tributes have flooded in from across the football world following the tragic announcement that Fiorentina captain Davide Astori has passed away at the age of 31.
The news was confirmed on Sunday morning in a statement from the Serie A side, which read: “Fiorentina are profoundly shaken and forced to announce that their captain Davide Astori has died.
“For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to the sensitivity of the media.”
The centre-back, who had been capped 14 times by Italy, died suddenly in his sleep as Fiorentina prepared for a meeting with Udinese.
That game has been postponed as a mark of respect, with all other fixtures across the Italian top-flight following suit.
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 Milan striker Alexandre Pato also paid tribute saying via his Weibo account: "I am very sad to know that Italian football player Davide Astori died today. No words. My deep condolences and thoughts are with his family.”
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."
Borja Valero, who played with Astori at Fiorentina, said: "I cannot believe it, I do not want to believe it ... it's surreal ... rest in peace Davide."
Another former Viola star, Khouma Babacar, added: “I have no words to describe this marvellous person. I am not talking about on the pitch, but off it. Always smiling, you are the first to run towards me when I score a goal and even sprint 70 metres plus to reach me. Ciao brother. Condolences to all his family and to football, because there are few men like him in the world now.”
AC Milan and Italy centre-back Leonardo Bonucci also had a touching message: "Ciao Grande Asto. That's what I called you when we'd meet, for a game that saw us as opponents or for a Nazionale get-together. A smile, an embrace – one of the real ones – a person who was fair, honest and humble. How many times we laughed, joked and celebrated together. How many chats at the table sat side-by-side, or along the corridor that at Coverciano takes us to the [Italy training camp] bedrooms, on the pitch, or in the rooms. 'Come on Leo, do a sweeping pass like only you know how' was what you kept repeating to me during tactical training sessions. With that smile that never ended and that made it clear how much goodness there was within you. You have gone to play football up there and you'll do it with the same big smile. The smile you always had."
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".
Albin Ekdal, who was at Cagliari with Astori:
Vincenzo Montella, who has previously spent time in charge of Fiorentina, posted: “There is pain that no word can represent. The sudden death of Davide is a wound that hurts the skin, the heart. His smile and his moral purity are within all of us who had the privilege to walk beside him. Ciao, captain.”
Ci sono dolori che nessuna parola può rappresentare. La scomparsa improvvisa di Davide è una ferita che fa male alla pelle, al cuore. Il suo sorriso e la sua pulizia morale sono dentro tutti noi che abbiamo avuto il privilegio di camminargli accanto. Ciao, capitano — Vincenzo Montella (@VMontella) March 4, 2018
Former Milan and Juventus manager Carlo Ancelotti said: "What terrible news, how much sadness ... All my affection for the family and friends of Davide, Fiorentina and his fans, and all Italian football. We will not forget you. RIP."
Che notizia terribile, quanta tristezza... Tutto il mio affetto ai familiari e agli amici di Davide, alla Fiorentina e ai suoi tifosi, e a tutto il calcio italiano. Non ti dimenticheremo. RIP pic.twitter.com/wm9NTM6dGq — Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) March 4, 2018
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 #RIP pic.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.".
His Etihad Stadium team-mate Sergio Aguero posted:
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
Ex-Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas said: "Rest in Peace Captain. Condolences to your family, friends and the great family of Italian football."
Manchester United keeper David de Gea:
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.
Tutte le gare in programma oggi sono rinviate in segno di lutto.
Ciao Davide. pic.twitter.com/KWa4P0dPHc — Serie A TIM (@SerieA_TIM) March 4, 2018
The FIGC's thoughts are with the directors, coaches and staff who knew and respected Davide throughout Italian football, while we also offer our most profound condolences to the Astori family. pic.twitter.com/nCQbfmyPwN — Italy (@azzurri) March 4, 2018
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
Ciao Grande Asto, era così che ti chiamavo quando ci incontravamo, per una partita che ci vedeva avversari o per un raduno in Nazionale. Un sorriso e un abbraccio di quelli veri, una persona leale, onesta e umile. Quante volte abbiamo riso, scherzato, gioito insieme. Quante chiacchierate a tavola seduti accanto, o lungo il corridoio che a Coverciano porta alle camere, o in campo, e anche in camera. “Dai Leo sventagliamela come sai” era quello che mi ripetevi ogni allenamento durante la tattica. Con quel sorriso che non finiva mai e che faceva capire quanto di buono c’era dentro di Te. Te ne sei andato a giocare lassù e so che lo farai sempre con un grande sorriso. Quello che ti ha sempre contraddistinto. Sei un grande amico mio. Mancherai. Leo
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