A lovely man, always available to talk and someone who had the balls to put his face in front of the camera when needed as a captain. That was Davide Astori.
A guy who enjoyed his life as a professional footballer, with a wife and a two year old daughter he loved.
It started going around on everyone’s phone. “Is it true?. “Is it fake news?. “Someone making a stupid joke?”.
The news from Udine hit the world of Fiorentina hard, many could not believe it, then it was made official: Astori had passed away, aged 31, overnight in his sleep, in the hotel where the Viola were staying ahead of their game against Udinese.
The last one to see him was reportedly Marco Sportiello, who had played PlayStation with him before going to bed.
The Fiorentina players sat at their table in the hotel to have breakfast at the fixed 9.30am time and Davide did not turn up. Messages and phone calls were made but there was no reply. They went to check. He had passed away.
It happened in his sleep, like an old man who has decided it was his time to rest. But Davide was 31, and had all his life to live.
He grew up in the AC Milan youth system and to condense his career in a nutshell it could be described as always consistently at the top.
A defender who hardly ever let his team mates down, becoming a regular international for Italy and ending his career and life as Fiorentina captain.
Born in the province of Bergamo, he started his youth career at Pontisola, before moving to Milan. He never played for the Rossoneri first team, and after loans at Pizzighettone and Cremonese, he moved to Cagliari in 2008, where his career had a breakthrough.
He played 179 games for the Sardinian club, before moving to Roma in 2014, in what everyone thought would be the turn of his career into something bigger and better.
Many big clubs have tried to sign him over the years, including Napoli and Inter but he struggled to impose himself at Roma, despite scoring a goal against Udinese in Udine – yes, the same city in which he passed away – that led to several debates as to whether or not it had crossed the line, when Roma were battling for the Scudetto with Juventus.
He joined Fiorentina after just one season in the capital, moving to Tuscany in 2015. He had turned 31 in January, had played 109 games for Fiorentina, and in the summer he had received the captain’s armband.
One of the few big names to survive the revolution the club had to undergo in last summer’s transfer window, Astori immediately became the leader of the team, putting his face forward when someone needed to speak out.
It happened in the summer, when the club struggled to sign new players, and Astori said: “We need five new signings!”, which was something the club did not like at the time but that showed his spirit and mentality.
He always had time for fans and journalists, in both the good times and the bad. Astori had convincingly grown into the role of Viola captain.
Consistently in a select group of players called up by Italy, he played 14 games for the national team but never made it to a major tournament, apart from the 2013 Confederations Cup, where he scored his only Azzurri goal against Uruguay to win the bronze medal.
That in itself was a special goal: the first by a Cagliari player for Italy since Gigi Riva, 40 years earlier.
The night Italy were knocked out of the World Cup by Sweden at the playoff stage, Astori stood up from the bench ready to warm up to replace an apparently injured Leonardo Bonucci.
Bonucci then played until the very end but Davide was there, ready to come on in one of the worst nights for Italian football. A night that inevitably becomes meaningless on days like this.
The world of football as a whole will come together to commemorate a guy everyone loved, off the pitch as well as on the pitch. Someone who loved his job and his life and a man who will be hugely missed.
Serie A postponed all scheduled games after the news as a mark of respect as Italian football tries to cope with the tragedy.
Davide will live on in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to meet such a lovely man.