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.
They applauded loudly as Astori’s coffin was driven past Fiorentina’s Artemio Franchi stadium. There were shouts of his name and ‘grande capitano’ (great captain) and a banner held up read: ‘Per sempre nostro capitano (forever our captain)’.
Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus team flew back from London especially for the service following the Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday night.
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, a team-mate of Astori at Roma, will also attend, 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.
Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti led his side into the church in Florence ahead of the service
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’.
Astori, who played for Italy 14 times, leaves behind his partner, Francesca Fioretti, and their 2-year-old daughter.