Serie A legend Sinisa Mihajlovic dies following cancer battle

Sinisa Mihajlovic, who played for and coached numerous Italian Serie A teams and was famed for his spectacular free kicks, died on Friday after a long battle with cancer.

Mihajlovic was sacked as manager of Serie A club Bologna in September after they failed to record a win in their first five league matches.

The Serbian had become Bologna manager for the second time in 2019 and had been in charge while battling leukaemia.

His playing career included lengthy spells at Sampdoria and Lazio and he also managed Serbia.

"You fought like a lion on the pitch and in life ... you are and you will always be a winner," Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a tweet as tributes began to flood in from inside and outside the football world.

Mihajlovic's death, confirmed by his family in a statement, went immediately to the top of the main newspapers' websites in Italy, where he played for most of his career. He also managed a number of clubs, including AC Milan.

"Goodbye boss, you will always live in our hearts," Bologna said in a tweet.

"Heaven has gained another legend. You will be sorely missed Sinisa," was the message from AC Milan.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he was "deeply saddened."

"On the pitch, his free-kicks embodied a passion and dedication for the beauty of the game that left a lasting impression on the world of sport and his death is a great loss to all of us," he added.

A midfielder or defender, Mihajlovic scored a number of spectacular goals from free kicks.

He made his name as part of the Red Star Belgrade team that won the European Cup in 1991. He moved to Italy the following year when he joined AS Roma and went on to play for Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter. He was part of squads that won Serie A title with Lazio in 2000 and then Inter in 2006 in his last season as a player.

His coaching career began at Bologna in 2008 and took in stints at Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Torino, as well as AC Milan, where he was in charge for less than a year.