ROME (AP)Siniša Mihajlović, a winner of the European Cup and Serie A who became a popular coach in Italy, has died after a long battle with leukemia. He was 53.

Mihajlović’s family announced Friday that he died in a Rome hospital.

Mihajlović most

for 3 ½ years, and was a sentimental favorite of fans and players alike for his desire to remain on the job even after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2019.

Players sometimes gathered under Mihajlović’s hospital window when the coach was receiving treatment.

The Serbian was fired by Bologna in September.

A full back and free kick specialist who played with ferocious intensity, Mihajlović was on the Red Star Belgrade team that won the European Cup in 1991. He also won Serie A as a player with Lazio in 2000 and was on the Inter Milan team that was given the 2006 Serie A title after Juventus was stripped of the honor for the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Mihajlović still holds the Serie A record for most goals from free kicks with 28 – two more than Andrea Pirlo.

Mihajlović also coached Catania, Fiorentina, Serbia’s national team, Sampdoria, AC Milan and Torino.

Tributes to Mihajlović started pouring in immediately after his death was announced.

Red Star said it was opening its museum on Saturday for mourners to pay their respects to “the great Miha.”

“I’ve lost a friend with whom I shared 30 years of my life,” said Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who played with Mihajlović at Sampdoria and Lazio then had Mihajlović as one of his assistant coaches at Inter.

“It’s not fair that such a devastating disease takes you away at 53,” Mancini added. “He fought to the last instant like a lion, just like he was accustomed to doing on the field.”

Serie A president Lorenzo Casini said “Siniša will always remain a great example of a fighter,” adding that “he was able to make himself loved by his fans and respected by his opponents.”

Bologna striker Marko Arnautović, who is second on the league chart with eight goals this season, paid tribute to his former coach on Instagram.

“Thanks for always having believed in me, especially when others didn’t,” said Arnautović, an Austria international with a Serbian father. “You took me in like a member of your family, you were a friend, a brother, a father. I’ll keep you alive in my heart and I will fight and play for you. Rest in peace coach.”

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