Italy icon Franco Baresi led the tributes paid to former Yugoslavia footballer and ex-AC Milan coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, who has died at the age of 53 following a fight with leukaemia.
The former Lazio and Inter Milan star has succumbed to his illness following a struggle of over three years having still been in the dug-out at Italian club Bologna just three months ago.
Former Italy and AC Milan captain Baresi among other former footballers led the tributes to Mihajlovic after he passed away in a clinic in Rome on Friday.
Sinisa Mihajlovic, pictured when Bologna boss, has died aged 53 following a battle with leukaemia
Riccardo Montolivo (pictured, right) played under Mihajlovic during his time at Fiorentina
The former defender said: ‘Hi warrior you fought head high to the end real man. RIP.’
Former Italy and Fiorentina midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, who played under Mihajlovic as his manager also paid tribute, by tweeting: ‘You fought on the pitch and in life with determination and dignity.
‘There are no words… it was an honor to meet you and work together. Hi Mister.’
Former Inter Milan team-mate Javier Zanetti shared a long emotional post on Instagram, saying: ‘You were an amazing friend, comrade, man, fighter.
‘Your strength, your sincerity, and your way of simply being Sinisa has been an example for everyone, everyday.
‘Immeasurable pain. A huge hug to the family and loved ones. Bye Sinisa, rest in peace.’
Former Bayern Munich and France winger Franck Ribery posted: ‘I had the pleasure of meeting you, you had a great personality, a man who earned a lot of respect and a fighter to the end.
‘You have taught many values in the world of football. We will miss you. Rest in peace Sinisa!’
Argentina legend Gabriel Batistuta also paid his respects, by writing: ‘How many battles in the field. Hi Sinisa.’
The Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni also pay her respects, by saying: ‘You fought like a lion on the pitch and in life. You have been an example and have given courage to many who are facing the disease.
‘You have been described as an iron sergeant, you have shown that you have a big heart. You are and will always be a winner. To God Sinisa Mihajlovic.’
Deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini added: ‘I don’t want to believe it, you bloody bastard disease. Bon voyage #Sinisa, champion on and off the field. We will miss you so much.’
AC Milan have paid tribute by tweeting: ‘Heaven has gained another legend. You will be sorely missed, Siniasa.
Fellow Serie A outfit Sampdoria also posted: ‘Ciao Sinisa.’ While Inter Milan also joined in by writing: ‘You’re never ready to say hello to a travel companion. Hi Siniasa.’
One of his former clubs Lazio posted a statement on their website from president Claudio Lotito: ‘SS Lazio mourns the passing of Sinisa Mihajlovic: a great Lazio man, a warrior on the pitch and in life.
‘His courage on the pitch was second only to that shown in the face of a serious illness, which never weakened him spirit and temper.
‘An indelible trace in the history of Lazio will remain of this fighter with a big heart, not only for having been Champion of Italy, but for the message of hope in the face of the difficulties that he was able to represent up to the last moment of his life.
‘We will remember him as he deserves, with the infinite embrace of his team and his people.
‘Our deepest condolences to the family.’
Mihajlovic played for Red Star Belgrade, Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan in his career
Mihajlovic played 63 times and scored 10 goals for Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2003, playing at both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
His club career saw him play for Red Star Belgrade in his home country, helping them win the European Cup in 1991, before moving to Italy, where he played for prominent Serie A clubs Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter Milan.
It was his six seasons at Lazio that saw Mihajlovic achieve considerable success, helping them to the Serie A title in 1999-2000 and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998-99.
It was his six seasons at Lazio that saw defender Mihajlovic achieve considerable success
He would win a second Scudetto with Inter in the 2005-06 season as well as four Italian Cups overall.
Mihajlovic had been in the dug-out with Bologna as recently as three months ago.
He was first diagnosed with an acute form of leukaemia in July 2019 but continued in his coaching duties at Bologna despite undergoing a bone marrow treatment and three cycles of chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, he suffered a relapse of the disease back in March, which meant another round of treatment.
Bologna was the last stop on a coaching career that saw him also take the helm of Fiorentina, Sampdoria, AC Milan, Torino, Sporting Lisbon and the Serbia national team.
Mihajlovic was sacked by Bologna in early September following a winless opening five games of the Serie A campaign.