Gianni Rivera

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Gianni Rivera
Rivera Gianni 02.jpg
Personal information
Full name Giovanni Rivera
Date of birth (1943-08-18) 18 August 1943 (age 75)
Place of birth Alessandria, Italy
Height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position Midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1959–1960 Alessandria 26 (6)
1960–1979 Milan 501 (160)
Total 527 (166)
National team
1962–1975 Italy[1] 63 (15)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)
Giovanni Rivera
Member of European Parliament from Italy
In office
25 May 2005 – 13 July 2009
Constituency Piedmont II
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
2 July 1987 – 29 May 2001
Personal details
Political party Democratic Centre (since 2013)
The Daisy (2002–2007)
The Democrats (1999–2002)
Segni Pact (1994–1996)
Christian Democracy
(before 1994)

Giovanni "Gianni" Rivera (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒanni riˈvɛːra]; born 18 August 1943 in Alessandria) is an Italian former football midfielder, who was mostly utilised as an offensive playmaker.

Dubbed Italy's "Golden Boy" by the media, he played the majority of his career with Serie A side A.C. Milan, after beginning his career with Alessandria for a season in 1959. With Milan, he enjoyed a highly successful career in domestic and European football. Internationally, he represented Italy 63 times, scoring 15 goals, and took part at four World Cups (1962, 1966, 1970, and 1974). Rivera is widely remembered for scoring the decisive goal in Italy's extra-time win over West Germany in the semi-final of the 1970 World Cup, leading them to final against Brazil, where they would be defeated 4–1, however. Rivera was also a member of the first Italian side to win the European Football Championship in 1968, on home soil.

Rivera was an elegant, efficient, and creative offensive midfield playmaker, with an eye for goal, who possessed excellent technical ability, footballing intelligence, vision, and class.[2] He is widely considered to be one of the most talented offensive playmakers of all time, due to his passing accuracy and his adeptness at providing assists.[3][4] Regarded as one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time,[5] and by some as Italy's greatest player ever,[6][7] he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1969, and placed 19th in IFFHS's election for the World Player of the 20th Century.[8] In 2015 he became the first Italian footballer out of 100 athletes to be inducted into Italy's sports Walk of Fame.[9] In 2004, Pelè chose Rivera as part of the FIFA 100 greatest living footballers, and he placed 35th in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.[10]

After retiring from football, Rivera went into politics and he is currently a Member of the European Parliament for the Uniti nell'Ulivo party. He has been appointed as the President of the educational youth sector by the FIGC for the Italy national football team, along with Roberto Baggio and Arrigo Sacchi under head coach Cesare Prandelli.[11]

Club career

Nicknamed the Golden Boy of Italian football, Rivera was the product of Alessandria's youth football academy and made his debut in Serie A for Alessandria against Internazionale on 2 June 1959 at the age of only fifteen years, and is one of the youngest players in history to have ever made their Serie A debut. He played 26 matches for his first club, for which he scored 6 goals. A year later, he was bought by AC Milan to replace Juan Schiaffino in the playmaking role, with a record transfer fee of $200,000 at the time, also being handed the number 10 jersey; during his time at the club, he would play alongside legendary Milan players such as Cesare Maldini, Giovanni Trapattoni, Dino Sani, Fabio Cudicini, and José Altafini, among others.[12] In 1962 he won the first scudetto with AC Milan and on 13 May 1962, aged just eighteen, he played his first match for the Italian national team against West Germany at the World Cup in Chile, a game that finished with a goalless draw. With Milan, Rivera would become known for his leadership, and he would later go on to become the club's captain for 12 seasons.[13][14]

Rivera's 1962 scudetto victory with Milan, under legendary manager and catenaccio mastermind Nereo Rocco,[12] enabled the team to qualify for the European Cup in 1962, a European Cup which the team finally won for the first time, beating Benfica 2–1 in the 1963 final. Rivera was in great form during the match, providing two notable assists for José Altafini's goals, and he was awarded second place in the famous Ballon d'Or award that year, which was won by the Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin.[2] Rivera helped Milan win the Coppa Italia during the 1966–67 season, finishing the competition as top-scorer, with 7 goals.[2][14]

Rivera lifting the Cup Winners' Cup in 1968.

In the 1967–68 season, Rivera won both the league title and the Cup Winners' Cup final with Milan; he also played for Italy as they won the 1968 European Championship on home soil. Rivera missed the final against Yugoslavia through an injury he picked up at the semi-final game against Soviet Union, despite a strong performance during the match.[2] Despite his performances and success throughout the season, Rivera missed out on the Ballon d'Or however, which was awarded to European Cup winner George Best, with Rivera finishing in 7th place in the final rankings.[2] Next season, Rivera and AC Milan emerged victorious in the European Cup, winning the final over Johann Cruyff's Ajax, a match which is regarded as one of Rivera's greatest, most dominant, and most virtuosic performances, as he captained Milan to a 4–1 victory in the number 10 role at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, setting up one of Prati's three goals.[2] In addition to the European Cup that season, Rivera also won the Intercontinental Cup, successes that finally earned him the Ballon d'Or in 1969.[2][14]

In the 70s, Rivera led AC Milan on to two more Cup Winners' Cup finals, one in 1973 and another in 1974; Rivera managed to win the 1973 final with Milan, but the following year, Milan suffered a defeat in the final.[2] Rivera also suffered a defeat in the 1974 European Supercup final with Milan. With the Rossoneri, during the 70s, he also won two consecutive Coppa Italia titles, in 1972, and 1973, a season during which he was top-scorer in Serie A, with 17 goals, and with a personal best of 20 goals in all club competitions.[2] In the 1970–71, 1971–72 and the 1972–73 seasons, Milan managed three consecutive second places in Serie A, also reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup during the 1971–72 season.[2] AC Milan also reached the Coppa Italia final during the 1974–75 season, and won another Italian Cup in the 1976–77 season, although Rivera was missing in most of these Cup matches, as he was banned because of his statements against Italian referees, suggesting that they favoured Milan rivals Inter.[2] One of Rivera's most prominent performance in the Coppa Italia during the 70s was in the 1970–71 edition, where Milan finished in second place, and in which he was once again top-scorer, with 7 goals.[2][14]

Rivera achieved the last scudetto of his playing career in his final season, still contributing to the League victory with AC Milan in 1979, despite his own advancing age; this was the tenth title for "The Devils", earning them a star on their jersey.[2] In total, he played for AC Milan in 501 Serie A matches and scored 160 goals, and with 527 Serie A appearances, is the 11th most capped player in Serie A history.[2][14]

National team

Rivera's No.10 Italy shirt, worn against Bulgaria on 20 April 1968.

Rivera was a part of the Italian national side between 1962 and 1975. Rivera made his international debut with the under-21 side on 9 March 1960, scoring 2 goals in a 4–1 pre-Rome Olympic friendly win over Switzerland, alongside Giacomo Bulgarelli. With the senior side, he made his debut on 13 May 1962 in a 3–1 away win against Belgium, and he took part at the 1962 and the 1966 World Cups with Italy. He would later be part of the victorious Italian side that would win their first European Championship in 1968 on home soil.[2]

Rivera subsequently played with the Squadra Azzurra (Italian national team) in the 1970 FIFA World Cup hosted by Mexico, where he was Italy's star player as they reached the final, losing against Pelé's Brazil side, 4–1.[2] The Italian coach at the 1970 World Cup Finals, Ferruccio Valcareggi, believed that Rivera and his fellow right-sided playmaker teammate Sandro Mazzola could not play together on the same field, as they played in similar positions for rival clubs. Although Rivera was arguably the more famous of the two at the time, Valcareggi elected to start Mazzola due to his pace, stamina, work-rate, and stronger physical and athletic attributes, which he deemed more important in the tournament.[2] However, by the 2nd round, the Italian offense failed to sparkle. Valcareggi devised a solution he called "staffetta" (relay) to play both players. Mazzola would start in the first half while Rivera would come in at halftime. With this strategy, Rivera helped to beat the hosts Mexico in the quarterfinal, scoring a goal, and West Germany in the semi-final, in which Rivera played a major role in one of the most entertaining games in World Cup history, scoring Italy's 4th and match-winning goal in a 4–3 victory. However, in the final against Brazil, Valcareggi did not use Rivera until there were only six minutes left in the game, despite Rivera being the hero of the past two matches. Although the two Italian starts were finally able to play alongside each other, it was too late to overturn the result, and Brazil won the final 4–1.[2][14]

He also played in the 1974 FIFA World Cup wearing the number 10 shirt, finally appearing alongside Mazzola. He scored a goal in the group stage against Haiti, but he did not appear in the match where the aging Italians were knocked out by Poland in a 2–1 loss. The 1974 World Cup elimination marked the end of Rivera's career with the national team. In total, he played in 63 games for Italy, scoring 15 goals in the process, the most goals scored by a midfielder for Italy, until he was overtaken by Daniele De Rossi.[2][15]


After retirement, Rivera became a vice-president at Milan. When Silvio Berlusconi bought the club in 1986, he resigned from his position and entered politics, becoming a member of the Italian Parliament. He served as an under-secretary for defense under Romano Prodi's government and later a non-inscrit Member of the European Parliament (MEP).[2]

In 2013 Rivera was appointed by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) as President of the Technical Sector (settore tecnico), which oversees the training and qualification of technical staff employed by the FIGC and is headquartered at the Coverciano in Florence.[16]

Rivera is featured in the EA Sports football video games FIFA 14 and FIFA 15's Classic XI – a multi-national all-star team, along with compatriots Bruno Conti, Giacinto Facchetti, and Franco Baresi.[17]

Style of play

Rivera was an elegant, graceful, creative, technically gifted, and efficient offensive midfield playmaker, who possessed footballing intelligence, and class.[2] Although he lacked defensive abilities, stamina, pace, as well as notable physical and athletic attributes,[18] he was an extremely talented player, who was renowned for his skilful style of play, despite his poor work-rate. Rivera was known in particular for his ball control, quick feet, acceleration, agility, balance, dribbling skills, and technique, which allowed him to dribble past players with ease. Above all, he was highly regarded for his vision and his sublime range of passing, which made him an excellent assist provider.[2][19][12] Despite being primarily a creative midfield player, Rivera was also known for having a keen eye for goal, and was an accurate finisher from both inside and outside the area; he is the highest-scoring midfielder in Serie A history, with 128 goals.[20][12] He was also an accurate set piece and penalty-kick taker.[21][22] Rivera is widely considered to be one of the greatest Italian footballers and one of the most talented playmakers of all time, as well as one of the best players of his generation.[3][4] In 2004, Pelé chose Rivera as part of the FIFA 100 greatest living footballers, and he placed 35th in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll.[14]

Career statistics


Club Season League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Alessandria 1958–59 1 0 - - - - - - 1 0
1959–60 25 6 - - - - - - 25 6
Total 26 6 - - - - - - 26 6
Milan 1960–61 30 6 1 0 - - 2 0 33 6
1961–62 27 10 1 0 2 0 - - 30 10
1962–63 27 9 - - 7 2 - - 34 11
1963–64 27 7 1 0 2 1 2 0 32 8
1964–65 29 2 - - - - - - 29 2
1965–66 31 7 1 0 4 1 - - 36 8
1966–67 34 12 6 7 2 0 1 0 43 19
1967–68 29 11 5 3 10 1 - - 44 15
1968–69 28 3 4 1 7 2 - - 39 6
1969–70 25 8 3 1 3 2 2 1 33 12
1970–71 26 6 10 7 - - - - 36 13
1971–72 23 3 6 2 8 4 - - 37 9
1972–73 28 17 6 3 9 0 - - 43 20
1973–74 26 6 5 1 8 0 - - 39 7
1974–75 27 3 4 0 - - - - 31 3
1975–76 14 1 5 1 3 0 - - 22 2
1976–77 27 4 7 0 5 0 - - 39 4
1977–78 30 6 5 1 1 0 - - 36 7
1978–79 13 1 4 1 5 0 - - 22 2
Total 501 122 74 28 76 13 7 1 658 164
Career total 527 128 74 28 76 13 7 1 684 170

*European competitions include the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Cup, and UEFA Super Cup



Italy national team
Year Apps Goals
1962 4 2
1963 5 2
1964 4 2
1965 6 1
1966 6 2
1967 4 0
1968 4 0
1969 3 0
1970 7 2
1971 3 0
1972 3 0
1973 7 2
1974 4 1
1975 3 1
Total 63 15








  1. Gianni Rivera at
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 "Legend of Calcio: Gianni Rivera". Retrieved 2 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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External links

Preceded by
Cesare Maldini
Milan captain
Succeeded by
Romeo Benetti
Preceded by
Romeo Benetti
Milan captain
Succeeded by
Alberto Bigon