Former Uruguay defender Fabian O’Neill, hailed by Zidane as ‘the most talented player of all time’, dies aged 49

Former Uruguay and Cagliari defender Fabian O’Neill, who was once hailed by Zinedine Zidane as one of the ‘most talented players’ he has ever seen, dies aged 49 after a battle with chronic liver disease

  • Fabian O’Neill has died aged 49 after a battle with chronic liver disease
  • The former Cagliari and Juventus defender was hospitalized on Saturday
  • He won 19 caps for Uruguay and appeared at the 2002 World Cup
  • He made his senior club debut for Nacional in 1996 before moving to Cagliari

Former Uruguay and Cagliari defender Fabian O’Neill has died aged 49 after a battle with chronic liver disease.

According to the Uruguayan Football Federation, O’Neill, who had 19 caps for the national team, was hospitalized in a coma on Saturday after suffering a haemorrhage.

The South American, who was once, according to France24, hailed by soccer icon Zinedine Zidane as one of the ‘talented players’ the Frenchman has ever seen, had struggled with alcoholism in the past.

Former Uruguay defender Fabian O’Neill (right) has died aged 49 after a battle with chronic liver disease

After making his senior debut for Club Nacional in 1996 aged 18, the defender moved to Italy to play for Cagliari.

He would spend three seasons at Cagliari, scoring 16 goals in 136 games, before joining Juventus in 2000 where he won Serie A with the Old Lady.

After playing 20 times for the Turin giants, O’Neill left to join Perugia, before returning to Cagliari in 2002.

O'Neill played 19 times for Uruguay and went to the 2002 World Cup but did not play

O’Neill played 19 times for Uruguay and went to the 2002 World Cup but did not play

The defender would also travel as part of Uruguay’s World Cup squad for South Korea and Japan, but did not make an appearance at the tournament.

He stayed in Italy for another year before returning to Uruguay to play for Nacional, where he retired in 2003.

Tributes poured in for the defender, with Uruguayan outlet El Pais writing: “Uruguayan football is in mourning.

“One of the best players to emerge in recent decades and who knew how to shine on the pitch with his talent and his magic has left us.”

His former club Cagliari also took to Twitter to pay tribute to the defender: “Proud to have been able to admire your genius up close: pure, crystalline, like the most precious diamonds.

“You made us fall in love with your class, Cagliari never stopped loving their Wizard with No.10 on their shoulders.”

The defender (R) will play in Italy for most of his career for Cagliari and Juventus

The defender (R) will play in Italy for most of his career for Cagliari and Juventus

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