Hearts cup-winning legend Stefano Salvatori dies at 49

Stefano Salvatori celebrates as Hearts storm to a 4-1 victory over Aberdeen in August 1997. Picture: SNS Group
Stefano Salvatori celebrates as Hearts storm to a 4-1 victory over Aberdeen in August 1997. Picture: SNS Group
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Stefano Salvatori, who helped Hearts to Scottish Cup glory in 1998, has died at the age of 49 following an illness.

The Rome-born midfielder, who played for a host of Italian clubs including Parma, Fiorentina and AC Milan, joined Hearts in 1996 from Atalanta, with whom he won promotion to Serie A.

Stefano Salvatori made a return toTynecastle with Italian semi-professional side Real Cureggio in June 2008. Picture: TSPL

Stefano Salvatori made a return toTynecastle with Italian semi-professional side Real Cureggio in June 2008. Picture: TSPL

A key component of the Hearts side throughout the 1997/98 season, Salvatori - capped 13 times for Italy Under-21s - moved to Edinburgh just months after Hearts had lost to Rangers in the Scottish Cup final in May 1996, helping them exact revenge two years later.

A statement from Hearts said all at the club were ‘deeply saddened to learn of the passing’ of Salvatori, adding: “He wrote his name into Hearts folklore by helping the Jambos to lift the 1998 Scottish Cup with a 2-1 win over Rangers, and in the process earning himself legendary status in Gorgie.

“The club would like to pass on its condolences to the family and friends of Stefano.”

One of the first Italian players to ply his trade in Scotland, Salvatori fell in love with Edinburgh and Hearts, later returning to Scotland in 2011 in a bid to find work.

Salvatori gets to grips with Grant Brebner during a derby match at Easter Road. Picture: SNS Group

Salvatori gets to grips with Grant Brebner during a derby match at Easter Road. Picture: SNS Group

READ MORE - Hearts legend Stefano Salvatori in hunt for Scottish job [from 2011]

He told The Scotsman at the time: “I am back in Scotland to work because football is my life. I am very happy to be back in this country.”

Salvatori continued to make an impact in Scottish football even after his retirement, recommending Manuel Pascali to Kilmarnock boss Jim Jefferies.

Salvatori made 84 appearances in total for Hearts in all competitions, scoring three goals.

He left Tynecastle in 1999 and finished his career in Italy’s lower divisions with Alzano Virescit, AlbinoLeffe and Legnano, hanging up his boots in 2002.

Salvatori had a European Cup winner’s medal as part of the AC Milan squad that won the trophy in 1990. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, Salvatori came on as a sub against Belgian side KV Mechelen in the quarter finals, replacing Angelo Colombo.

He was an unused sub in the semi final first leg match with Bayern Munich but was left out of the squad for the second leg, and the final against Benfica.

He was also part of the AC Milan matchday squad that won the 1989 European Super Cup, beating Barcelona in Monaco.