The celebrated striker’s death comes with the football world still in mourning for Argentina icon Diego Maradona, who passed away late last month.
Italian TV channel RAI Sport, where Rossi had been working as a pundit, said on Thursday that “Pablito” had died of an “incurable disease”.
Rossi’s wife, Federica Cappelletti, on Thursday posted a photo of herself and her husband on Instagram along with the words per sempre, meaning “forever”.
Cappelletti said her husband died in her arms.
She said Rossi passed away in his sleep at hospital after she promised him she would care for their children and assured him that he “had already done so much”.
“He didn’t want to go, but I hugged him hard and I told him, ‘Paolo, now go. Enough, you’ve suffered enough. Now leave this body’,” she said.
“And then he went to sleep.”
Cappelletti spoke to reporters outside the La Scotta hospital in the Tuscan city of Siena, where Rossi had been treated over the past year and where family members gathered.
Italian Football Federation (FIGC) President Gabriele Gravina said that Rossi was “indelibly linked to the blue shirt and his style of play inspired many strikers of future generations”.
Rossi had a remarkable career comeback, leading Italy to the 1982 World Cup title after returning from a suspension following a betting scandal in 1980.
He scored six goals at the tournament in Spain, including a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Brazil and the opening goal in a 3-1 win over West Germany in the final.
Considered to be one of the greatest players of all-time, the 1982 Ballon d’Or winner at club level with Juventus won two Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and the European Cup.
The striker also played for Como, Vicenza, Perugia, Milan and Hellas Verona before moving into sportscasting at Italy’s top networks.
Tributes have been flooding social media for the legendary Italian striker.
Marco Tardelli and Paolo Rossi (right) embrace during Italy’s 3-1 win over West Germany in the final of the World Cup in Spain, on July 11, 1982. (Photo: AAP)
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte offered his condolences, posting on Twitter that Rossi was a player who “gave a dream to entire generations with his goals in the summer of 1982”.
RAI sports presenter Enrico Varriale, who worked with Rossi, posted on Twitter about the star forward’s death.
“Very sad news: Paolo Rossi left us,” Varriale wrote.
“Unforgettable Pablito, who made us all fall in love in that summer of ’82 and who has been a precious and competent workmate at RAI in recent years. RIP dear Paolo.”
Cappelletti said a memorial service was planned at Vicenza and that Rossi’s remains would be cremated, a decision she took in agreement with their children.
“I want to have him near me forever,” she said.