Fiorentina captain Astori found dead before match

UDINE, Italy— Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday at the age of 31 after a suspected cardiac arrest before an Italian league match.

Davide Astori of ACF Fiorentina in action during the Serie A match betweenACF Fiorentina and Genoa CFC at Stadio Artemio Franchi on December 17, 2017 in Florence, Italy. (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)

The defender, who has also played 14 times for Italy’s national team, was discovered by Fiorentina teammates when he failed to show up for breakfast at the hotel in Udine. Fiorentina’s game at Udinese in northeast Italy was called off, along with all fixtures in the country’s top two divisions.

Astori’s body was taken to the Santa Maria della Misericordia Hospital for an autopsy.

“The belief is that the player died of a cardiac arrest by natural causes,” Udine prosecutor Antonio De Nicolo said. “It is strange that such a thing should happen to a professional who is so closely monitored without there being any warning signs.”

Fiorentina said Astori, who had played for the club since 2015, was “hit by a sudden illness.”

“For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to the sensitivity of everyone,” the team said in a statement.

Astori leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old daughter.

In Florence, fans attached scarves, flowers and messages to the gates of the team’s stadium.

Football fans hang scarves and hommages to late Fiorentina’s captain Davide Astori on the fence of Fiorentina’s stadium, on March 4, 2018 in Florence. Italy international defender Davide Astori was found dead in his hotel room on March 4, 2018 in Udine, where he was due to play a Serie A game between Udinese and Fiorentina. (Photo credit: CLAUDIO GIOVANNINI/AFP/Getty Images)

There was an outpouring of shock across Italian soccer. Genoa and Cagliari were preparing to play in Serie A’s early game when the players were told of Astori’s death. Several players walked off in tears and, when the match was officially called off, a picture of Astori was shown on the giant screen, leading to applause throughout the stadium.

Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, a former Italy goalkeeper, posted a picture of himself with Astori on Instagram.

“Ciao dear Asto,” Buffon wrote in Italian before going on to say that he rarely talks publicly about people but was making an exception “because you have a young wife and family who are suffering, but above all your little daughter, deserves to know that her father was in every way a GOOD PERSON. a TRULY GOOD PERSON.”

Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, who coached Italy from 2014 to 2016, struggled to hold back the tears as he reacted to the death before a Premier League game at Manchester City.

“This is a tragedy,” Conte said. “This news really hurt me and it’s very difficult in this moment to find the right words for the family. … He was a great player, especially a fantastic guy.”

Astori made his Italy debut in 2011 and played at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil where he scored against Uruguay.

“You were the best expression of an old-fashioned world,” Buffon said, “one that people have left behind, and which was governed by values like altruism, elegance, politeness and respect toward others.

“Genuine compliments, you were one of the best sporting figures I ever came up against.”

Astori started out in the Milan youth academy but never played a senior match for the Rossoneri, making his Serie A debut with Cagliari in 2008.

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

“Davide was always the epitome of great professionalism and reliability,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco tweeted. “An amazing person. I too feel the grief of all his loved ones.”