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Footballing legend Nils Liedholm dies

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Footballing legend Nils Liedholm dies
Photo: Romano Gentile/Scanpix
08:33 CET+01:00
Nils Liedholm, who captained Sweden at the 1958 World Cup finals and as a coach guided AC Milan and Roma to Serie A titles, has died at the age of 85, Italian news agency ANSA reported on Monday.

A gold medal winner at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, a decade later Liedholm was the skipper of the Swedish team that hosted the World Cup finals.

Aged then 36 he scored the first goal of those finals although that didn't prevent his side losing 5-2 to a Brazil side starring a 17-year-old Pele.

After starting off his club career with Swedish side Norrkoping he moved to Italy where he won four league titles with AC Milan in 1951, 55, 57 and 59.

Following his retirement as a player in the early 1960s he turned to coaching, leading former club Milan to the title in 1979 and Roma to the championship four years later.

Kurt Hamrin, who played with Liedholm in the 1958 World Cup, paid tribute to his teammate:

"He was a good person - very well respected as a human being.

"He found it easy to relate to his players, and allowed young talent to come forward. But he was not only a good player and trainer - he was good at everything he put his hand to, such as his vineyard," Hamrin told news agency TT.

Thomas Nordahl, football commentator, son of fellow footballing legend Gunnar Nordahl and football commentator, said Liedholm was "a fantastic football player and a gentleman of high integrity.

"Uncle Nils had an incredible sense of humour and could laugh at himself. It's very tough that he is gone. He was the last link to all our legendary players," Nordahl told Svenska Dagbladet.

Liedholm earned a handsome tribute from Silvio Berlusconi, president of AC Milan.

"This is a huge figure in AC Milan's history, who has left us.

"A champion, a lord, a friend ... Thank you Nils, for all that you did for us," added the former Italian Prime Minister.

Italian football legend Gianni Rivera remembered him fondly as well.

"I am one of the rare people who can remember him as a player," said Rivera, the 1969 European footballer of the year.

"Because as I was starting my first year with Milan, I played with him when he was on the point of finishing his playing career.

"He helped me and placed himself at my disposition.

"He was a person who placed, underneath a frigid veneer, human relationships above anything else.

"He had feelings and placed human relations above technical qualities."

For former Brazilian international great and AS Roma star Falcao, Liedholm's death was a real blow to a player who won the Serie A title under him.

"People like him should never die," said Falcao, part of the breathtaking Brazil side from the 1982 World Cup finals.

"I have difficulty finding the words, I am suffering badly from the news.

"He was like a father to me, he was just a good natured guy and an altruist.

"He taught me so many things. I owe him so much.

"He was an extraordinary person. He saw a lot of himself in me, even, though, he never told me so directly.

"He was a man of incredible intelligence."

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