Emotional scenes as thousands gather to bid farewell to 'grande capitano' Davide Astori

Thousands of people gathered in one of Florence's main squares for the funeral of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori.

Some arrived at 7am on Thursday, three hours before the start of the funeral at Basilica di Santa Croce.

The hearse carrying Astori's body was greeted by loud applause and shouts of his name and "grande capitano" (great captain).

The coffin is carried into the church during the funeral ceremony of Davide Astori. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

The square then fell silent for a few minutes, while many raised Fiorentina scarves and banners in the air.

Astori's family arrived along with the hearse, including his partner, Francesca Fioretti, and their two-year-old daughter, Vittoria.

Earlier, the Fiorentina players were met by applause when they arrived on foot, led by midfielder Milan Badelj.

Fiorentina fans wait outside the church during the funeral ceremony of Italian player Davide Astori. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

The Croatia international read out a message on behalf of the club during the service, which was broadcast to the crowd outside.

"You are the brother or the son that everyone would have wanted to have," Badelj said.

"Your parents didn't make any mistake with you, not even the tiniest bit. You're not like others, you are football, the real one, the pure one of children.

"Our thoughts go out to your mother and your father, to your brothers, to Francesca and to Princess Vicky. You were a man with a capital M and we will tell her. You are the light for all of us."

Many other dignitaries and former teammates were also present, including Giuseppe Rossi, who plays for Genoa, and Borja Valero and Matias Vecino, who play for Inter Milan.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, who played with Astori for Italy, was in tears as he arrived with Gianluigi Buffon and other teammates.

Juventus' Gianluigi Buffon arrives for the funeral ceremony of Davide Astori. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri also attended.

The delegation from Juventus had flown to Florence from London, where they beat Tottenham in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Players and officials from most Serie A teams were present, including former Roma captain Francesco Totti and former Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura.

Thousands of people were also gathered outside Fiorentina's stadium, where the funeral procession passed slowly on its way to the church.

The 31-year-old Astori was found dead in his hotel room on Sunday after a suspected cardiac arrest before Fiorentina was to play an Italian league match at Udinese in northeast Italy.

The defender, who also played 14 times for Italy, was discovered by Fiorentina staff when he failed to show up for breakfast at the hotel in Udine.

Astori started in the Milan youth academy but never played a senior match for the Rossoneri, making his Serie A debut with Cagliari in 2008.

He spent six years at the Sardinian club before loan spells at Roma and Fiorentina, where he was signed on a permanent basis in 2016.

Fiorentina and Cagliari have retired Astori's number 13 shirt.

- PA

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