Gianni Rivera, 1968 European Champion with Italy and AC Milan legend, turns 74 today.
Rivera was born in Alessandria on 18th August 1943 and started his playing career at his hometown club. He made his Serie A debut with Alessandria aged just 15, on 2nd June 1959 in a 1-1 draw against Inter. Rivera then made 25 appearances the following season, scoring six goals, and this breakthrough year earned him a move to AC Milan.
Rivera played for the Rossoneri for 19 years, betweem 1960 and 1979. He made 658 appearances and scored 164 goals for the club and won all the major tournaments there are to win: three Serie A titles, two European Cups, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, an Intercontinental Cup and four Coppa Italias. Rivera also won the Ballon d’Or in 1969, finishing just ahead of Gigi Riva, another Azzurri legend.
Rivera’s international career began with a friendly between Belgium and Italy on 13th May 1962 that saw the Azzurri prevail 3-1. He scored his first goals for the team a few months later, on 2nd December, as he grabbed a brace in a 6-0 win over Turkey in 1964 EURO qualifying. Rivera made the squad for the unsuccessful World Cup campaign in England in 1966 and for the triumphant European Championship held on home soil in 1968. Due to injury, however, he did not play in the final against Yugoslavia.
Two years later, he was involved in the legendary ‘relay’ with Sandro Mazzola at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, as they never played together. The most memorable encounter from that World Cup was the semi-final that the Azzurri won 4-3 against West Germany on 17th June 1970. Rivera scored the winner in the 111th minute of the match that was later christened “the Game of the Century”.
Rivera won his last cap during the 1974 World Cup in a 1-1 draw against Argentina on 19th June 1974. In total, he made 60 appearances and scored 14 goals for the Azzurri.
He came back to the Azzurri family in 2010 when he became president of the FIGC Youth and School Sector. He has held the position of president of the FIGC Coaching Sector since 2013.