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UEFA Cup winning coach Luigi Simoni mourned in Italy

Luigi Simoni, who coached Internazionale Milano to the 1998 UEFA Cup title, has passed away at the age of 81.

Inter's 1997/98 UEFA Cup-winning coach Luigi Simoni
Inter's 1997/98 UEFA Cup-winning coach Luigi Simoni ©Getty Images

Former Internazionale Milano coach Luigi Simoni, who led the Nerazzurri to UEFA Cup glory in 1998, died today at the age of 81.

The erstwhile midfielder, who won the Coppa Italia with Napoli in 1962 and played for Torino and Juventus among others, had been hospitalised since suffering a stroke in June 2019. He started his coaching career in 1974/75 with Genoa, the club where he had spent his last three seasons as a player.

Known in Italy as 'L'allenatore gentiluomo' (Gentleman Coach), he once said: "You can't always be a gentleman in your life, otherwise you'll never reach your goals. Probably in my career I was too much of a gentleman. But I am very proud to have done what I did, always respecting the rules, never looking for shortcuts."

On his coaching CV, Simoni had no fewer than seven promotions from Serie B to Serie A – two with Genoa, two with Pisa and one each with Brescia, Cremonese and Ancona. The highlight, though, was arguably the 1997/98 campaign when he guided Inter to second place in Serie A and the UEFA Cup, the first European trophy of the Massimo Moratti presidential era. "He was a real gentleman," Moratti said. "I could only have huge esteem and affection for him. The call from his wife telling me he had died was very painful."

Spearheaded by Brazilian ace Ronaldo, Simoni's Nerazzurri beat Lazio 3-0 in the Paris final. "I never thought all players should be managed the same way, especially if someone was special – and Ronaldo was exceptional," Simoni said last year. "I never asked him to run, he just needed to train and play with the ball. Someone else would have to run for him, and his team-mates were glad to do that, because they knew they were part of a strong side with a genius in attack."

Leaving Inter the next season, Simoni continued working as a head coach, including a brief spell in Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia. He was president of Cremonese – the club he had restored to Serie A as a coach in 1993 and which had voted him their coach of the century – as recently as 2015.