|Full Name : Giovanni Rivera
Date Of Birth: August 18, 1943
Place of Birth: Alessandria, Italy
Height: 175 cm
National Career: 1962-1974
Caps: 60 (14)
Giovanni ("Gianni") Rivera (born August 18, 1943 in Alessandria) is a former Italian football player who was awarded the European Footballer of the Year prize in 1969. He is currently a politician.
Nicknamed il golden boy of Italian football, Rivera was the product of Alessandria's youth soccer academy and made his debut in Serie A for Alessandria against Internazionale on June 2, 1959 at the age of only fifteen years. He played 26 matches for his first club, in which he scored 6 goals. After one year, he was bought by AC Milan to replace Juan Schiaffino with a record transfer fee for that time, $200,000; he was only sixteen years old. In 1962 he won the first scudetto with AC Milan and on May 13, 1962, at 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, 0-0.
Due to their win of the 1962 scudetto, AC Milan qualified for the European Cup in 1962, a European Cup which they finally won, beating Benfica 2-1 in the final with Rivera in great form as he was awarded second place in the famous Ballon d'or award, which was won by the Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin.
In the 1967/1968 season, Rivera won with AC Milan both the title and the Cup Winners' Cup. In 1968, he played for Italy as they won at the European Championship.
Sadly, he missed the Final match against Yugoslavia through injury he received at the semi-final against Soviet Union. Next season, Rivera took AC Milan to win the Champions Cup as he finally got the Ballon d'or award.
He played with the Squadra Azzurra (Italian national team) in the 1970 FIFA World Cup hosted by Mexico, where they reached the final, losing against Brazil, 4-1. The Italian coach at the 1970 World Cup Final, Ferruccio Valcareggi, believed that Gianni Rivera and his teammate Sandro Mazzola could not co-exist on the same field. Although Gianni Rivera was the most famous of the two, Valcareggi elected to start Mazzola. However, by 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 host Mexico in the quarterfinal and West Germany in the semifinal, in which Rivera played a major role in one of the best matches in World Cup history, scoring the goal of the success of Italy (4-3). However, in the final against Brazil, Valcareggi did not use Rivera until there were only 8 minutes left in the game, despite Rivera being the hero of the past two matches.
He also played in the 1974 FIFA World Cup when the Italians were knocked out by Poland, 2-1. That was the end of Rivera's career at the national team for which he played in 60 games, scoring 14 goals.
Rivera took AC Milan in two Cup Winners' Cup finals, one in 1973 and another in 1974; the first one was won and the second lost. With the red-and-black team, he also won two consecutive Italian titles, in 1972 and 1973. AC Milan also won several Italian Cups in the 70's but were missing Rivera in most of them, as he was banned because of his statements against Italian referees.
Rivera won the last scudetto of his playing career in 1979 with AC Milan, this also being the tenth title for "The Devils". In total, he played for AC Milan in 501 Serie A matches and scored 160 goals.
After retirement, Rivera became a vice-president at the club. When Silvio Berlusconi bought the club in 1986, he left and entered the Italian political life, being one of the members of the Italian Parliament. He served as an under-secretary for defense under Romano Prodi's government. He was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.
He currently is a Member of the European Parliament for the Uniti nell'Ulivo party.
Seria A: 1961-62, 1967-68, 1978-79 (3 Titles)
Coppa Italia: 1966-67, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1976-77 (4 Titles)
UEFA Champions League: 1962-63, 1968-69 (2 Titles)
Cup Winners Cup: 1967-68, 1972-73 (2 Titles)
International Cup: 1969
European Championship: 1968
FIFA World Cup
Serie A Top Scorer: 1973 (17)
European Player of The Year: 1969