Golden Greats (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Jul 14, 2002
Name: Giovanni (Gianni) Rivera Nickname: Abatino, Golden Boy
Date of Birth: 18 August 1943 Position: Midfielder
Place of Birth: Valle San Bartolomeo, Alessandria, Italia

National Team
Games: 60 (Milan) Goals: 14 (Milan) Captain: 4 (Milan)
Honours: European Player of the Year 1969
European Champion 1968
Runner-up European Player of the Year 1963
Runner-up World Champion 1970
'Guerin d'Oro Speciali' 1987
'Calciatore D'Oro ad Honorem' 1974
Records: Second most player to play in World Cup Tournaments - 4
Most Italian player to play in World Cup Tournaments - 4

Seria A
Clubs: Alessandria, Milan Seasons: 21 (Alessandria-2, Milan-19)
Games: 527 (Alessandria-26, Milan-501) Goals: 130 (Alessandria-6, Milan-124)
Honours:3-Italian Champion (Milan-1961/62, 1967/68 Captain, 1978/79 Captain)
Scudetto Star (Milan-1978/79 Captain)
4-Coppa Italia (Milan-1966/67, 1971/72 Captain, 1972/73 Captain, 1976/77 Captain)
Intercontinental Cup (Milan-1969 Captain)
2-Champions Cup (Milan-1962/63, 1968/69 Captain)
2-Cup Winners Cup (Milan-1967/68 Captain, 1972/73 Captain)
Seria A Top Scorer (Milan-1972/73 17 goals)
Records: Most Milan player to play in the Seria A - 501 games
Second most Milan player to score in the Seria A - 124 goals

Giovanni, or as everyone knows him Gianni Rivera was the Golden Boy of Italian Soccer during the 1960's. He is regarded the greatest player that Milan ever had, Italian or foreign, but because half of Italy and nearly all the Italian press hated him due to his polemical nature, in Italy he never got the recognition he deserved.
He is known for his way of creating action, his elegant style, an inimitable midfield leadership, ball distribution skills and magisterial perfect passes which always produced goals, generally scored by others after his work. His flaws in the field were lack of defensive skills, slowness when in doubt and a certain lack of courage, which was the origin of his nickname Abatino (literally meaning 'young monk' or 'a weak person') coined up by journalist Gianni Brera. Rivera was born in the Valle San Bartolomeo, a province of Alessandria on the 18 August 1943 and started his career with Alessandria, making his debut in the Seria A at the age of 15 against Inter
(1-1) on the 2 June 1959 (his only game for the 1958/59 season).
During the summer of 1959 he was seen playing by Milan's General Manager Gipo Viani during an exhibition training game. It is said that Viani thought he was seeing double as the Italo-Uruguaian oriundo star Juan Alberto Schiaffino was also playing and the pair of midfielders were very similar physically and in talent (Schiaffino won the 1950 World Cup with Uruguay and was regarded as one of the top five players in the world during the 1950's). An agreement was reached with Milan for Rivera's transfer, but this had to happen after another season with Alessandria in which Rivera played 25 games and scored 6 goals.
The season 1960/61 was his first from 19 with Milan and at the age of 18 he won his first championship (1961/62) and a year later his first European Champions Cup (1963). He played a major part in this 2-1 victory against the reigning two-time champions Benfica of Portugal in Wembley Stadium of London England, when through his pass Jose Altafini equilized. In this year Milan also lost the Intercontinental Cup against Santos of Brazil and Pele. The 20-year-old Rivera finished 1963 'ala grande' voted runner-up European Player of the Year by 'France Football' (second to Lev Yascin USSR).
The next few years were not so successful for Milan and Rivera, winning only the Coppa Italia in 1966/67. But in 1967/68 with the return of Rivera's mentor Nereo Rocco on the bench of Milan and Rivera as Captain, the club won both the Scudetto and the European Cup Winners Cup. 1969 was a memorable year for the Abatino as he led Milan to their second European Champions Cup and winning the European Player of the Year award, the first native-born Italian to win this honour (in 1961 this award was won by Omar Sivori, an Italo-Argentine Oriundo).
The 'France Football' jury recognized Rivera's gracefulness, creativity and artistry on the field in their presentation document: "In a football world which is too pragmatic, too sordid, even nasty, a world in state of shock over the many instances of doping which surround it and of the money which corrupt it, the Milan captain is the only one who gives a sense of poetry to this sport. Like Oscar Wilde, he looks for the esthetic side more than the result."
After winning the Intercontinental Cup in 1969, the 70's saw Milan winning another Cup Winners Cup (1972/73), three Coppa Italia (1971/72, 1972/73, 1976/77) and in 1978/79 their tenth Italian Championship which brought the Scudetto Star on the club's shirt. They also lost a Cup Winners Cup final. On the personal level, the Golden Boy won the Seria A Top Scorer in 1972/73 together with Savoldi (Bologna) and Pulici (Torino) with 17 goals. At the end of his career in 1979, Rivera had played a total of655 official games with Milan, becoming the player with most Seria A games with the club (501) and by scoring 124 goals he is the second most player who scored in the Seria A from Milan.
In the Azzurro he started playing at the age of 16 when he played with the 'Giovanile' National team. In total he played 9 games and scored 6 goals with this age-group team, playing also, along with a number of futureAzzurro stars, in the Olympic Games of 1960 held in Rome in which Italy finished fourth. Rivera also played 1 game with the Nazionale B team. He made his debut with the proper National team on the 13 May 1962 at the age of 19. On that occasion Italy played a friendly game against Belgium in the Heysel Stadium of Brussels and the Azzurri won 3-1 (game 232). He went on to play in 60 games, scored 14 goals and lead the Azzurri as captain on 4 occasions.
He participated in one European Nations Championship (1968) and four World Cup tournaments (1962, 1966, 1970, 1974), becoming with Giuseppe Bergomi the most Italian player with World Cup editions participation. Although too young to be blamed for the 1962 Chilean World Cup unimpressive participation, in the 1966 English edition he was blamed along with the other Azzurri for the disastrous 1-0 loss to North Korea and elimination. He played in the semi-finals of the 1968 Italian European Nations Championship but due to an injury he missed both the final and the replay in which Italy became European Champions.
On the wave of this triumph Rivera and the Azzurri headed for the 1970 Mexican World Cup. He was left out by the Italian national coach Ferruccio Valcareggi in some of the early games leading a Mexican daily to write: "Italy must have some amazing team if they can leave out the most technical player in Europe". The infamous Mazzola-Rivera "staffetta" (literally meaning relay) begins, where Alessandro Mazzola play in the first half and the Golden Boy plays the second. Rivera was in the spotlight in the semi-finals against West Germany when he went on the field in the second half and in the extra time first he committed a mistake by which Gerd Muller equalized 3-3 and than a minute later he scored the winning goal. Another 'staffetta' was envisioned for the final against Brazil but inexplicably, after a 1-1 first half; the Golden Boy entered only six minutes from time when the score was already 1-3 (final score 1-4). When the Italian delegation returned home, although they were runner-up World Champions they where greeted with rotten fruit and tomatoes with the exception of Rivera who was cheered by the public. It is a mystery why Valcareggi played a fit European Player of the Year for only six minutes in a World Cup final against the mighty Brazil of Pele.
Rivera's national team career ended in another World Cup, the 1974 edition of West Germany when Italy were eliminated in the First Round. He scored his 14th and last goal against Haiti (game 320, 3-1), played poorly half a match against Argentina (game 321, 1-1) and was left on the bench in the defeat by Poland (game 322,1-2).
His controversial nature often split Italy into two camps: pro- and anti-Rivera. Three occasions remains highlighted 1965, in the name of a better, less defensive game he clashed with Inter sweeper Armando Picchi, claiming that Italian teams play with a missing player against foreign teams due to their extra defender; 1970, almost left the Italian camp at the start of the Mexican World Cup after a dispute with the Azzurri's technical staff. In a press conference he attacked the idea that Alessandro Mazzola and himself cannot play together at the same time; 1973, accused the Italian soccer establishment and Referees of being in collusion to prevent Milan from winning titles and favoring Juventus, for which he was heavily fined and suspended.
Local awards never arrived, maybe because he often spoke openly. He won the 'Calciatore D'Oro Ad Honorem' in 1974 and, on the occasion of it's 75th founding anniversary, the Guerin Sportivo awarded him the 'Guerin D'Oro Speciali' in 1987, eight years after his retirement. He continued living in controversy after his football career was over when he entered politics and became a Member of Parliament. He even formed part of the government as an Under-Secretary of State for the Defense.

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