Italy boss Roberto Mancini described the death of Sinisa Mihajlovic as "not fair" as he hailed his great friend for showing the heart of a lion in his battle with leukaemia.

The pair were team-mates at Sampdoria and Lazio, with Mancini also coaching Mihajlovic at Lazio before taking the then 35-year-old with him to Inter in 2004.

They had a great bond, winning the Scudetto together with Sven-Goran Eriksson's team in 1999-2000, and doing so again at Inter in 2006, as player and coach.

Mihajlovic's death was announced on Friday, coming as a huge jolt to the football community in Italy, where the former Yugoslavia international spent most of his career.

After his playing days ended, Mihajlovic became Mancini's Inter assistant before having spells as a head coach with Bologna, Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Milan, Torino and, finally, Bologna for a second time.

During the 2015-16 season, Mancini and Mihajlovic were rival bosses in the same city as Mancini led Inter and Mihajlovic was in charge of Milan.

Mihajlovic was ousted as Bologna boss in September of this year, after a slow start to the season.

"This is a day I never wanted to live, because I lost a friend with whom I shared almost 30 years of my life, on and off the pitch," said Mancini, Italy's Euro 2020-winning head coach, in quotes reported by the Italian Football Federation's official website.

"It's not fair that such a terrible disease took away a 53-year-old lad, who fought like a lion until the last moment, as he was used to doing on the pitch.

"And this is exactly how Sinisa will always remain by my side, even if he is no longer there, as he did in Genoa [with Sampdoria], in Rome [with Lazio] and in Milan [at Inter] and subsequently also when we took different paths."

Mihajlovic was first diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019 and underwent a bone marrow transplant in October of that year, returning to the Bologna dugout just six weeks later.

When he discovered a problem in March of this year, former hard-man defender Mihajlovic said the leukaemia was "very courageous in returning to face an opponent like me".