Death of Davide Astori 'is a tragedy and it really hurts me', says Antonio Conte

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has led the tributes to Fiorentina captain Davide Astori, who has died at the age of 31.

The Serie A club announced the defender, who had been capped 14 times by Italy, died following a "sudden illness".

Conte, who selected Astori during his reign as Italy coach from 2014 to 2016, was visibly distressed when he spoke about his former player.

Conte told Sky Sports: "This is a tragedy and it really hurts me. It's very difficult at this moment to find the right words for the family.

"I had him with the national team. He was a great player but especially a fantastic guy. I stay close to his wife, parents and daughter. He was only 31 and it's very difficult to explain this situation."

Conte was speaking ahead of Chelsea's Premier League match at Manchester City this afternoon.

A short statement on Fiorentina's twitter account read: "Fiorentina are deeply upset to report that captain Davide Astori has died, suffering from a sudden illness.

"Because of the terrible and delicate situation, and above all for the respect of his family, sensitivity is called for."

All seven of Sunday's Serie A games were postponed following the news. Fiorentina had been due to play at Udinese.

A tweet from the league read: "Shocked by the tragic news, the whole of Serie A supports the family of Davide Astori and Fiorentina. All the games scheduled today are postponed as a sign of mourning."

Astori started his career with AC Milan but did not play a competitive match for the Rossoneri, and after loan spells with Serie C clubs Pizzighettone and Cremonese he joined Cagliari in 2008, playing for the club until 2016.

During his time on the books of the Sardinian side, Astori had loan spells with Roma and Fiorentina, joining the latter permanently in 2016.

After representing Italy Under-18s, Astori played 14 times at senior level. His debut in March 2011 in a 2-0 victory over Ukraine in Kiev was eventful - he was introduced as a first-half substitute before being sent off with 15 minutes remaining after receiving two yellow cards.

Astori scored his only international goal in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup third-place play-off against Uruguay in Salvador, giving Italy a first-half lead in a match which finished 2-2. The Azzurri won the contest on penalties.

Italy visit Wembley later this month for a friendly with England and the Football Association has said it will honour Astori, saying it was "truly saddened" by the news.

Among the other Serie A games to be postponed was Sunday evening's Milan derby between AC and Inter.

The Rossoneri said of their former player on their Twitter account: "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 close ones and to ACF Fiorentina."

- PA

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