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Buffon leads tributes to tragic Fiorentina captain as Florence declares day of mourning

Buffon leads tributes to tragic Fiorentina captain as Florence declares day of mourning
Italian football icon Gianluigi Buffon has led the tributes to ACF Fiorentina captain Davide Astori who died suddenly aged 31. The city of Florence, where the club is based, has declared a day of mourning to mark his passing.

Astori died in his sleep on Sunday after suffering a suspected cardiocirculatory arrest, although the cause of death is yet unconfirmed.

Juventus goalkeeper and Italy great Buffon paid tribute to his friend in an Instagram post, where he spoke of a “truly good person,” along with a picture of the two captains exchanging pennants before a club match.

“Ciao dear Asto,” Buffon wrote. “I rarely publicly express my thoughts on a person, because I always allowed the beauty and unique nature of relationships, of reciprocal respect and affection, to avoid being used or misused by those who don’t have the decency to respect certain bonds.

“In your case, I feel the need to make an exception to the rule, because you have a young wife and family who are suffering, but above all a little girl, who deserves to know that her father was in every way a good person...a truly good person.

“You were the best expression of an old-fashioned world, one that people have left behind, with values like altruism, elegance, politeness and respect towards others. Compliments genuinely, you were one of the best sporting figures I ever came up against. R.I.P. Your crazy Gigi.”

Fiorentina’s match with Udinese was called off along with the remaining Serie A fixtures as a mark of respect to Astori. The Mayor of Florence subsequently announced a day of mourning will be held on the day of Astori’s funeral, the date of which is yet to be confirmed.

“The news of the premature death of Davide Astori has shocked the world and distressed the whole of Florence, the city he had chosen to pursue his profession in and for his family life,” wrote Mayor Dario Nardella in a statement, going on to call Astori an “exemplary man, more than a footballer.”

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Astori began his career by coming up through the youth ranks at AC Milan before moving to Cagliari. He then went on to Fiorentina via a season-long loan stay in the Italian capital with AS Roma, spending three years at the heart of the Fiorentina defense and becoming their captain.

The defender, who was also capped 14 times by the Italian national team, scoring one goal in the blue of the Azzurri, was due to sign a contract Monday that would have seen him spend the rest of his career at the club.

“Believe me, it is hard to be here,” club President Andrea Della Valle told reporters outside Fiorentina's headquarters on Sunday. “This is a huge tragedy for us. I don't even know how to express this pain. We are all in shock.

“He was due to extend his contract on Monday. He was due to do it earlier, but due to the snow, we had put it back and agreed we would do it on Monday. It was his greatest joy to be able to end his career here, because this is where it would have ended."