Pioli pays tribute to "generous, positive, altruistic" Astori
Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli offered a touching tribute to the late Davide Astori ahead of the side's return to Serie A action this weekend.
Davide Astori has been described as "generous, positive [and] altruistic" in a heartfelt tribute from Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli.
The 31-year-old was found dead at the team hotel last Sunday, with an autopsy indicating heart problems were to blame for his passing.
Fiorentina's match against Udinese and the rest of the day's Serie A fixtures were consequently postponed and Astori's funeral was held on Thursday, when thousands of fans turned up in the square outside the Basilica di Santa Croce to pay their respects.
Pioli's men face Benevento this Sunday and Pioli spoke with evident emotion about the loss of Astori.
Astori "was special as both a person and a captain"
"The first thought goes to Davide, who I was fortunate enough to know over the last few months. He was special as both a person and a captain," said Pioli, who took charge in June.
"He always found the right way and time to say things. He was generous, positive, altruistic. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend much time with him and I'll miss him. I miss him every day I step on to that training ground.
"Our thoughts are with his family. I don't know what to say to [partner] Francesca and [daughter] Vittoria, other than we will always be there for them."
Speaking about the scenes at Astori's funeral service, Pioli drew strength from the show of solidarity from the club's supporters.
"Our fans have a huge heart. I wanted to hug each and every one of them to console them and let them console us, so together we could find the strength to go on," he said.
"We thank the whole football world, because such participation and solidarity is certainly down to Davide, but also means that there are still principles and values in a world that at times is described differently. Our club owners again showed their sensitivity and did everything possible to help the team.
"We are crying and suffering, because Davide was our reference point, but we know what to do in order to honour his memory.
"I usually like to motivate players by telling them: 'Try to train and play as if it was the last time.' I never needed to say that to Davide.
"He has left us so many values, that seed of passion, professionalism and sensitivity. Now it's up to us to look after it and help that seed grow. All united, in memory of Davide."
La Viola announced that Astori's number 13 shirt would be retired in honour of the man who won 14 caps for Italy.
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