Stars from across Italian football and beyond are in Florence for the funeral of Davide Astori, the Fiorentina captain who was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday.
The 31-year-old was discovered hours before his team were scheduled to play Udinese in a Serie A match.
His team-mates were pictured arriving at the Santa Croce church in Florence ahead of the service, which began at 10am in Italy, while thousands of fans lined the streets and filled one of the main squares, some arriving as early as three hours before the funeral started.
The square fell silent and fans held their Fiorentina scarves aloft as Astori’s coffin was carried into the Santa Croce church
Fiorentina fans watch on as Astori’s coffin is lifted and carried into the church by pallbearers
Astori’s funeral began around 10am local time – fans lined the streets for three hours before the service started
Astori died in his sleep at the team hotel – he leaves behind partner, Francesca Fioretti, and their two-year-old daughter
Fioretti makes her way into the church in Florence on Thursday for Astori’s funeral, four days after he died
Astori’s relatives pictured making their way to the service as thousands of onlookers pay their respect
Astori, who played for Italy 14 times, leaves behind his long-term partner, Francesca Fioretti, and their two-year-old daughter. A tearful Fioretti was seen making her way into the church on Thursday morning with Astori’s family, including their daughter, Vittoria.
The Fiorentina players were met by applause when they arrived on foot, led by midfielder Milan Badelj.
The Croatia international read out a message on behalf of the club during the service, which was broadcast to the crowd outside.
‘You are the brother or the son that everyone would have wanted to have,’ Badelj said. ‘Your parents didn’t make any mistake with you, not even the tiniest bit. You’re not like others, you are football, the real one, the pure one of children.
‘Our thoughts go out to your mother and your father, to your brothers, to Francesca and to Princess Vicky. You were a man with a capital M and we will tell her. You are the light for all of us.’
Fans lifted their scarves and others waved flags to commemorate Astori’s achievements for their team
A banner is held aloft amid a sea of Fiorentina supporters paying their respects, reading: ‘Forever our captain’
Mourners lined the streets around Fiorentina’s stadium and applauded as Astori’s coffin was driven past
Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus team flew back from London especially for the service following the Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday night.
Defender Giorgio Chiellini was visibly emotional as he made his way into church. The 33-year-old, who played at Wembley for Juve on Wednesday night, admitted afterwards that he had ‘cried many times’ since learning of Astori’s passing.
‘Tomorrow we go to give the last ‘Ciao’ together with out team-mates,’ Chiellini said.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, a team-mate of Astori at Roma, was also there, according to reports in Italy.
Venezia coach Filippo Inzaghi – best known in Italian football for his time as a player at AC Milan – was seen arriving while Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti led his side into the church.
Marco van Basten, Francesco Totti and Marek Hamsik were other notable names who were there to remember Astori.
Gianluigi Buffon acknowledges the Fiorentina supporters in attendance as he arrives for Astori’s funeral
Buffon followed the Juventus squad into the church – they flew back especially after Champions League win over Tottenham
An emotional Giorgio Chiellini is greeted by a fellow mourner as he arrives alongside his Juventus team-mates
Former Roma captain Francesco Totti makes his way into the church, as does Juventus boss Massimo Allegri
A poster of Astori reading ‘thank you for everything you gave’ hangs over a balcony where fans gathered for the funeral
Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti led his side into the church in Florence ahead of the service
Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik and Holland legend Marco van Basten, once of AC Milan, were there to remember Astori
2006-08: AC Milan
2006-07: Pizzighettone (loan) – 27 games, 1 goal
2007-08: Cremonese (loan) – 33 games
2008-16: Cagliari – 179 games, 3 goals
2014-15: Roma (loan) – 30 games, 1 goal
2015-16: Fiorentina (loan) – 42 games
2016-18: Fiorentina – 67 games, 3 goals
Italy: 14 caps, 1 goal
Astori started his playing career 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.
Fiorentina and Cagliari, Astori’s club between 2008 and 2016, announced on Tuesday that they had retired the No 13 shirt in honour of their former player.
Fiorentina tweeted: ‘In honour of Davide Astori’s memory, Cagliari and Fiorentina have decided to retire the No 13 shirt.’
Cagliari, having changed their Twitter handle to ‘Ciao Davide’, added: ‘To honour their memory and make indelible the memory of David Astori, @acffiorentina and @CagliariCalcio have decided to jointly withdraw the jersey with the number 13.’
Fiorentina announced on Sunday morning that Astori had died following a ‘sudden illness’. All of Sunday’s Serie A fixtures were postponed and a day later, prosecutors opened a culpable homicide case over his death.
The chief prosecutor in Udine, Antonio De Nicolo, said on Monday that a culpable homicide case — which in Britain is known as manslaughter — would be opened, but that it was a formality at this stage and that ‘no one has a responsibility for anything’.
Fiorentina have retired Astori’s No 13 shirt – as have his former club Cagliari – after his untimely death
Astori played for Fiorentina from 2015 – as well as Cagliari, he also played for Roma in the Italian first tier, Serie A
Some fans went to extensive measures to catch a glimpse of Astori’s coffin as fans gathered outside the Santa Cocre church
A picture of the square outside the Santa Croce church in Florence, filled with thousands of mourners for Astori
Filippo Inzaghi (left), now manager of Venezia, and Inter Milan manager Spalletti arrive for the service
Fiorentina supporters held up scarves in their traditional purple-and-white colours at Astori’s funeral
Federico Bernardeschi of Juventus and Alessandro Florenzi of Roma arrive before Astori’s funeral