ESPN FC’s Gabriele Marcotti discusses the reaction to the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori across the footballing world.
Serie A commissioner Giovanni Malago speaks on the decision to postpone Sunday’s Serie A and Serie B matches following the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori.

A criminal investigation into the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori has been opened so that an autopsy can happen before his funeral on Thursday morning.

Astori, 31, was found dead in his hotel room in Udine, Italy, on Sunday, hours before his team were due to face Udinese and a day before he was set to sign a new contract that would have tied him to the Serie A club for the rest of his career.

An autopsy is set for Tuesday morning in Udine after head prosecutor Antonio De Nicolo confirmed investigations to see whether anyone could be found culpable in Astori’s death.

“We have opened criminal proceedings with the hypothesis of manslaughter, currently against unknown individuals, and we have requested an autopsy,” De Nicolo said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. “It is a duty to ascertain whether the death of Astori happened due to tragic fatality or if somebody should have detected something.

“At this time, there is no responsibility on the part of anybody, who may seem to be able to respond to anything. This only enables us to identify if there is any responsibility among those who were looking after him.”

A day earlier, De Nicolo had said the cause of death was believed to be “cardiac arrest by natural causes.”

Earlier, Giovanni Malago, the acting head of the Lega Serie A and president of the Italian Olympic Committee, called for sensitivity and not to speculate over the cause of Astori’s death and whether enough had been done to prevent it.

Carlo Tranquilli, the former doctor of the country’s under-21 team, said Italy is at the forefront of medical examinations for athletes.

“Unfortunately there is nothing new — with the tests we have it reduces the risks of sudden death, but you can never rule it out 100 percent,” he told ANSA. “In Italy, more tests are carried out and there are only a few other countries in the world on our level. With the screening that we do and the pre-performance checks for professional athletes, the risks of sudden death can be ruled out by up to 89 percent.

Davide Astori during Fiorentina's match against Lazio.
Fiorentina captain Davide Astori was found dead on Sunday.

“But unfortunately, there are certain pathologies which escape us. In under-35s, there can be hidden pathologies which you may suspect, but are difficult to discover. Professional athletes are forced to undergo tests at least once every six months, but the risk of sudden death remains, as the statistics show that it can happen to one athlete in every 100,000 under the age of 35.”

Fiorentina confirmed the date and time of both the autopsy and Astori’s funeral, which will take place in the Tuscan city of Florence.

“Fiorentina and Davide’s family announce that the autopsy will be carried out tomorrow [Tuesday],” Fiorentina confirmed on Twitter. “Davide will be brought back to Florence on Wednesday where, at the Italian FA’s technical centre in Coverciano, a room for people to pay their last respects will be prepared.

“The funeral will take place in Florence on Thursday in the Basilica di Santa Croce at 10 a.m.”

This weekend’s Serie A games, apart from the three fixtures already played on Saturday, were postponed out of respect.

Meanwhile, UEFA confirmed that there will be a minute’s silence before this week’s games in the Champions League. Juventus face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley with several of Astori’s former Italy teammates — Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli — expected to play for the Italian club.

Federico Bernardeschi, who also played with Astori at Fiorentina for the past three seasons, will miss the game because of injury but is expected to attend Thursday’s funeral along with his Juventus teammates after returning from London.

The mayor of Florence also announced that a day of mourning will be held on Thursday with a memorial to be built “to remember Davide and enhance, through his figure, the clean, correct and human image of football and sport in general.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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