FORMER Saints target and Fiorentina captain Davide Astori has died, aged 31.

His death was announced just hours before the Italy defender was due to lead his club side out against Udinese.

Astori is reported to have died suddenly on Sunday morning in a Udine hotel.

The club were basing themselves at the hotel ahead of Sunday's Serie A match.

A club statement read: "Fiorentina is deeply saddened to announce that our captain Davide Astori has passed away, after suffering a sudden illness.

"For this terrible and delicate situation, and above all out of respect for his family, we appeal to the sensitivity of the media."

The central defender began his career with AC Milan, but failed to break into the first team.

He moved to Cagliari in 2008 and made 174 appearances in six years at the club.

Astori was rumoured to have been the subject of an £8 million bid by 2012 by Saints.

Rumours again circulated in 2013 that the club had made a £10 million for the defender.

However, Astori signed a new deal with Cagliari in 2014.

Following loan stints with Roma and Fiorentina, Astori made his move to Florence permanent in 2016 - scoring three goals in 58 games.

Astori was capped for Italy 14 times, making his debut in a 2-0 friendly win over Ukraine in 2011.

Following the news of his death, all of Sunday's Serie A games have been postponed as a show of respect for the player.