Top Italian footie star and club captain found dead

Astori in action for Fiorentina. Image PA

His club added in a statement: 'Fiorentina are profoundly shocked to have to announce the death of captain Davide Astori after a sudden illness.

"Fiorentina are deeply upset to report that captain Davide Astori has died of a sudden illness".

The Fiorentina captain was found dead in his hotel room prior to Sunday's match against Udinese, with the reason for his passing as of yet unclear.

The Fiorentina staff became anxious when Astori, who was married with a daughter, did not join his team mates for breakfast at around 9.30 am local time, club spokesman Arturo Mastronardi told reporters outside the hotel.

All of the day's Serie A matches, including Fiorentina's bout with Udinese and the early kick-off between Genoa and Cagliari, in which the players were informed pre-kick-off while warming up, were postponed following the announcement in a sign of respect towards the player, his family, friends and teammates. "In this awful and delicate situation, and in particular out of respect for his family, we appeal for everybody to show sensitivity".

The Italian league then postponed the other five Serie A matches scheduled for Sunday, including the Milan derby.

Italian Football is in mourning after Astori passed away in his sleep last night. It's very hard in this moment to speak about this tragedy.

He started his career at AC Milan in 2006 but did not make a Serie A appearance for the club during his two years there, which also saw him shipped out to Pizzighettone and Cremonese on loan. "It's very hard in this moment to find the right words for the family", Conte told Sky Sports ahead of Chelsea's match against Manchester City on Sunday.

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Former Lazio forward and Senegal worldwide Keita Balde wrote on his social media, "Rest in peace #RIP".

Veteran Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon wrote on Instagram: "You were the best expression of an out-of-fashion, old world ruled by values such as generosity, elegance, politeness and respect towards other people".

He spent six years at the Sardinian club before being lent to Roma and Fiorentina, where he was signed on a permanent basis in 2016.

He played 14 times for Italy.

'He was a fantastic guy, a great player but especially a fantastic guy.

"Compliments genuinely, you were one of the best sporting figures I ever came up against".

"Davide was always the epitome of great professionalism and reliability", Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco tweeted. I am close to the family and his loved ones.

The centre-back would go on to make 174 appearances in Sardinia, and earn his first Italy cap against Ukraine in 2011.

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