Gianni Rivera Biography

Sun 06 June 2021 | 3:00

In this article, we take a look at Gianni Rivera biography, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest legends of Italy and AC Milan.

Gianni Rivera, born on August 18, 1943, in Alessandria, is a former Italian football player and politician, who played as a midfielder. He was European champion in 1968 and World Cup runner-up in 1970 with the Italian national team. He was the first non-original Italian Golden Ball winner in 1969 and is widely regarded as one of the best Italian players of all time and one of the greatest number 10s in football history.

He started in Serie A at the age of fifteen with the shirt of Alessandria; with AC Milan, in which he played for nineteen seasons (twelve as captain), he was three times Italian, twice European, and once Intercontinental champions. He was eleventh in terms of the number of appearances in Serie A (527), and with 128 goals he was the most prolific midfielder in the history of the top division.

From 1962 to 1974 he was part of the Italian national team, playing 60 games and scoring 14 goals; he played in four World Cups, ranking second - behind Gianluigi Buffon - among the Italian players with the most participations in the World Cup, together with Enrico Albertosi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Fabio Cannavaro, Paolo Maldini, and Dino Zoff.

He is the 19th player, first among Italians, in the special ranking of the best football players of the 20th century published by the IFFHS in 2000. He was included in the FIFA 100 in 2004, a list of the 125 greatest living players compiled by Pelé and FIFA to mark the centenary of the federation; in the same year, he was 35th in the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll, an online survey conducted by UEFA to honor the best European footballers of the previous fifty years.

All You Need to Know About Gianni Rivera Biography

He became part of the Hall of Fame of Italian soccer in 2013 and in 2015 he was among the first one hundred athletes who were selected by CONI for the Walk of Fame of Italian sport. He has been active in the political field since 1987 and has held various parliamentary and governmental positions.

Gianni Rivera Information

Now that we know him much better, in this section of

Gianni Rivera biography

we will share some more general information about him such as

Gianni Rivera nationality


Gianni Rivera Bio

  • Full Name: Giovanni Rivera

  • Nickname: l'Abatino

  • Profession: Professional Footballer

Gianni Rivera Physical Stats

  • Weight: N/A

  • Height: 1.75 m

  • Eye Color: Dark Brown

  • Hair Color: Dark Brown

Gianni Rivera Football Information

  • Position: Attacking Midfielder

  • Jersey Number: 10

  • Professional Debut: 1959

Gianni Rivera Date of Birth and Personal Info

  • Date of Birth: 18 August 1943

  • Birth Place: Alessandria, Italy

  • Zodiac Sign: Scorpio

  • Nationality: Italian

Stay tuned as we are going to share some information about

Gianni Rivera childhood

in this section of

Gianni Rivera biography


Gianni Rivera Early Life

Born in Valle San Bartolomeo, a suburb of Alessandria where his parents, the railwayman Teresio and the housewife Edera Arobba, had moved temporarily to escape the danger of bombing the city center. He was raised in the central Via Pastrengo and took his first steps in football at the Don Bosco Oratory.

He earned his high school diploma and enrolled in technical schools, dropping out at the age of 16. His father introduced him, in 1956, to Giuseppe Cornara, trainer of the youth team of Alessandria. Rivera took part in the Federati tournament with the Alessandria youth team, and impressed Silvio Piola who, when he went to see one of his matches, declared: "at his age, I couldn't even dream of the things he can do".

Gianni Rivera Profile

The first team's coach, Franco Pedroni, decided to try him out in April 1958, putting him in the starting line-up in a friendly match against the Swedish team AIK; Rivera, then 14 years old, passed the test, scoring a goal, and the following season he was introduced in the first team's squad, which was playing in the highest national championship.

He made his debut in Serie A on Tuesday, 2 June 1959, in Alessandria-Internazionali match: the club had to ask for authorization from the Federation to play him, as he was not yet 16. He became the third-youngest debutant and the second-youngest scorer in Serie A (his first goal was on 25 October 1959, in Alessandria-



It was Pedroni, a previous AC Milan player, who quickly pointed him out to Viani, who made him undergo a positive test with Schiaffino at Linate. During the same period Benito Lorenzi, a former Internazionale player, recommended him to the Nerazzurri managers, however, Rivera was by then already destined for the Rossoneri, who purchased the co-ownership in 1959, leaving him for one more season at Alessandria.


refused him because he was too thin, as reported by several sources, but he denied it in 2013.

The Alessandria team was relegated to Serie B, despite Rivera's six goals, which earned him a call-up for the 1960 Olympics and the De Martino Award as the best young player in the league.

Milan bought back half of the young player in June for the considerable sum of 65 million lire plus Migliavacca and the loan of Sergio Bettini. His last match in the Cinerina shirt was on 19 June 1960, in the Coppa delle Alpi, against La Chaux-de-Fonds.

In this section of

Gianni Rivera biography

, we will share some more general information about his career at

AC Milan


AC Milan

He first played for the Rossoneri on 18 September 1960, in Alessandria, in a Coppa Italia match won 5-3 against his former team. The next week he debuted in the league, in the Milan-


match. He was first lined up "in a right-wing role that wasn't suited to him to the point that a degree of skepticism about him rose, although he scored six goals (the first in Turin, against Juventus) and finished second.

About that first period, Rivera declared: "I was not yet seventeen, I had played in Alessandria, which was going to be relegated, and then played in the Olympics: I was so tired, so exhausted, and I fell for nothing. So journalists wrote that I was a bluff and that I was only good to put in the garden, and I suffered".

Viani was promoted to technical director in 1961, while Nereo Rocco took over as coach; Rocco, who was unwilling to rely on young players, first asked to start negotiations for an exchange with Padova midfielder Rosa. Rivera said: "[I had played] with Rocco the previous summer at the Olympic team in Rome. He had asked me to go elsewhere to train, but when Viani insisted that there was no question of it, he agreed and started a relationship with me as an adult, even though I was still a boy".

In the 1961-1962 season Rivera made his comeback and proved decisive in winning the Scudetto; positioned behind the forwards in a supporting role, he guaranteed the tough Rossoneri team, who were used to defending "with an agile and if necessary massive formation", an effective and spectacular offensive game.

What launched him at the international level was his first call-up to the senior national team, in 1962, and Milan's victory in the Champions Cup in 1963: the Rossoneri came back against Benfica, scoring twice, on a counter-attack, thanks to Rivera's pass. By the end of that year, he was the second most voted football player in the 1963 Ballon d'Or election, after Lev Yashin.

After winning in 1963, Milan got weaker due to the end of Rizzoli's tenure and the tactical changes that came with Rocco's transfer to Torino. During the autumn the Rossoneri lost the Intercontinental Cup against


; Rivera, who was injured, did not play the decisive match.

During 1964 Sani left, and there were questions about Rivera's place on the pitch; at first Viani "was convinced" that "he could replace the Brazilian. Instead, Gianni disagreed and only reluctantly played in midfield"; thus he was moved to the right-wing. In 1964-1965 the team lost the Scudetto losing seven points to Inter and, between 1965 and 1967, they did not go beyond mid-table positions.

Meanwhile, also because of the events related to the national team, some critical voices about him had started again: Rivera was blamed by the critics " to have not reached, with the passing of the years, an athletic maturity and a technical thoroughness which could be expected considering his remarkable potential means" and to have "not been able to become Milan's leader and even to have helped the disbandment of the Rossoneri team".

He wore the captain's armband for the first time in 1966-1967 (in the Coppa Italia against


) and scored twelve goals, a personal record up to that moment. The young Franco Carraro became president in 1967 and reinstated Rocco. While everyone recommended removing Rivera, who was a fancy player rather than a substantial one, from the heart of the Rossoneri's play, Rocco instead gave total responsibility to the Rossoneri captain, entrusting him with the role and the part of the only leading man".

Rivera was called upon to support an attack made up of Hamrin, Sormani, and the young Pierino Prati, who was the top scorer on his debut in

Serie A

, and with whom he had an excellent understanding. Meanwhile, he scored eleven goals and was instrumental in winning the 1967-1968 Scudetto.

Many critics stressed his maturity and Annibale Frossi, the day after the title victory, wrote: "He offered his crucial contribution by using not only his natural offensive skills but also in midfield and defense, carrying out tasks that were once unnatural for him".

In the following year, he was among the stars of the Champions Cup final, won 4-1 against Ajax. He was the only Milan player, alongside Giovanni Trapattoni, to play in both the 1963 and 1969 finals. Milan also won the Intercontinental in October; Rivera scored in the second leg, in Buenos Aires, which is remembered for the violent conduct of the



Rivera, then 26, became the first non-original Italian football player to be awarded the Ballon d'Or on 22 December 1969: he defeated the runner-up, Gigi Riva, by four votes. The chairman of the jury, France Football journalist Max Urbini, explained the award by stating: "the award rewards pure footballing talent. Rivera is a great artist who honors football".

The next years were more turbulent: a controversial experience in the 1970 World Cup followed three second places in the league. In March 1972 heavy accusations on the referee selector Giulio Campanati earned Rivera three and a half months of disqualification.

In April 1973, during the league which is remembered as the one of the "fatal Verona" for the final defeat at the Bentegodi Stadium that cost the Rossoneri the title, Rivera attacked the referee Concetto Lo Bello after a match against Lazio.

That same season, however, Milan won the Cup Winners' Cup and the Coppa Italia. Finally, Rivera became the top scorer with 17 goals together with center-forwards Pulici and Savoldi: no midfielder had won this particular title since the 1946-1947 season when Valentino Mazzola had been the top scorer.

In the 1973-1974 season, the relationship with AC Milan president Albino Buticchi soured: Rocco's dismissal, which took place during the second half of the season, disappointed Rivera. The situation became worse the following year, when the player turned against the owner, who wanted to sell him to Torino in exchange for Claudio Sala, and got into conflict with the new coach Gustavo Giagnoni.

Finally, in May 1975 Rivera announced his retirement from the competitive activity and even took over the club the following September through a third party. Thanks to Rocco's return to the bench and ownership that suited him, he returned to playing football in November 1975.

The departure of Buticchi affected the stability of the club, which saw a series of presidents and unsuccessful sporting projects; AC Milan was in danger of being relegated to Serie B in 1976-1977, while the young coach Giuseppe Marchioro was trying to introduce the 4-4-2 and the zone defense.

Together with Fabio Capello, Rivera became part of a flawed central midfield: he noticed that the two, aged over thirty and not very quick, were easily overwhelmed by the opponents. However, at the end of the season Rivera managed to raise his third Coppa Italia, won after a derby.

At 36 years of age, Rivera, although weakened by "aches and pains of all kinds", participated in the victory of Milan's tenth Scudetto in the 1978/79 season; manager Nils Liedholm moved him back to the midfield, forcing him to play alternately with Roberto Antonelli due to an injury that kept him off the pitch for almost half of the season.

Rivera declared: "Torino or Perugia could have won that championship. We had no great team, but a consistent group of players. We won without a center forward". Rivera celebrated his 500th appearance in Serie A with AC Milan on the day of the crucial match against


, and contributed with a considerable number of assists: his partnership with Aldo Maldera, who used to get into the attack, had guaranteed the latter seventeen goals in two years, a significant figure for a full-back.

By the end of that season, and following a short South American tour, in which Rivera suffered the only two sending-offs of his career, he decided to retire, announcing in a press conference on 20 June 1979: 'my legs couldn't take it anymore and I didn't want to end up on my knees in any game'. His final official game was Lazio-Milan 1-1 on 13 May 1979, his 501st appearance in Serie A.

In this section of Gianni Rivera biography, we will share some more general information about his career with the Italian national team.

Italy National Team

In a 3-1 win against Belgium, Rivera made his international debut on 13 May 1962. At the time, he was eighteen years old. He was also selected for the World Cup in Chile. He played against West Germany on 31 May, a match that ended 0-0. This was Rivera's only appearance at the tournament.

Following a defeat against Chile (the infamous "Battle of Santiago") and a victory against Switzerland,


finished in third place in the group, resulting in elimination. He scored his first goal on 2 December 1962, in a 6-0 win against


. He also scored his second goal in the same match, making him the youngest Italian ever to score twice in an international match.

Then in 1966, Rivera was included in the World Cup in


. The Italian team was placed in a group with


, North Korea, and the Soviet Union. Unlike four years earlier, this time the team won against Chile. The Soviet Union won their second match in the group 1-0. Italy was hoping for at least a draw against North Korea to reach the next round.

The Azzurri were taken by surprise, however, as the North Koreans won 1-0 to advance to the next round together with the Soviet Union. Once again, Italy was eliminated early. The famous sports journalist Gianni Brera, who nicknamed Rivera l'Abatino ("the Little Abbot"), considered Rivera the only one who really tried his best.

Rivera was selected for the European Championships in his own country in 1968. Only four countries participated at that time, meaning that the first match was the semi-final. The Soviet Union was the opponent. Italy wanted revenge for the defeat at the World Cup two years earlier, and it worked: after the match remained 0-0, the Italian team was sent to the final via toss. However, an injury meant that Rivera could not play that match. Italy beat Yugoslavia 2-0 to become the European champions.

Rivera was a member of the Italian squad for the 1970 World Cup in


. He did not play in the first two games, however: a 1-0 win against Sweden and a scoreless draw against Uruguay. He made his first appearance in the tournament as a substitute in the final group game, against Israel.

The game also ended 0-0, leaving Italy the group winner with five points and only one goal scored. In the following round, Italy met Mexico. This time they did score a lot of goals: the Italians won 4-1. Rivera scored himself and gave two assists to Luigi Riva, with whom he formed a strong attacking duo throughout the tournament. Italy faced West Germany in the semi-finals, which would later become known as "the match of the century".

The Italian side took an early lead and held it for most of the match, before Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, Rivera's teammate at AC Milan at the time, equalized in the 90th minute to force an extra time. The Germans took the lead with Gerd Müller, but Italy leveled ten minutes later and even took the lead through Rivera.

However, with his tenth goal of the tournament, which would make him the top scorer, Müller again drew the match. Just a minute later, Rivera kicked Italy to victory. In the World Cup final, Pelé's Brazil was the opponent. Pelé himself opened the score, but Boninsegna leveled for Italy. However, in the second half, the Italians were outplayed and after goals from Gérson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto,


won 4-1. Rivera started the final on the bench, was allowed to come on as a late substitute, and was unable to turn the tide.

The 31-year-old Rivera was also invited to the

World Cup

in 1974. In the first group match against Haiti (3-1 win), he scored and was in the starting line-up when Italy drew 1-1 against Argentina. The last group game was too strong for Poland (2-1).

As a result, Italy was eliminated from the group stage for the third time in four World Cups. In that match, Rivera did not come off the bench, so the match against Argentina was his last international match. He played sixty times for the national team, scoring fourteen goals.

In this section of Gianni Rivera biography, we will share some more general information about his playing style.

Style of Play

Rivera was a trequartista, a fantasy player who stood behind the forwards and was responsible for putting them into action. He was always halfway between midfield and attack, to give assists to the forwards; however, in Rocco's Milan, Rivera was put in forward to score goals. When he was young, football critics compared him to Giuseppe Meazza and Juan Alberto Schiaffino, and due to his small size, he was nicknamed "Cosino" or "il Signorino" during his years at




Gianni Rivera is regarded as one of the greatest players Italian football has ever seen. Michel Platini, who gave him the 2011 UEFA President's Award, referred to him as "one of the greatest assists in history," adding that "his dribbling and distribution skills had few equals". In Carlo Felice's opinion, since the beginning, he revealed "an unreachable style: the velvet touch, the millimetric low pass, the sense of goal".

According to the Baldini & Castoldi encyclopedic biographical dictionary, "on the field he shows off an uncommon intelligence, he knows where to put the ball just before his teammates, he fascinates the audience with very long and calibrated throws to the tips. Nicknamed the Golden Boy, he knows how to show off outstanding technical qualities: a complete vision of the game, geometry, light touches that free his teammates."

Goal Celebration

Despite scoring many goals during his career as and striker and attacking midfielder, Gianni Rivera never had a signature goal celebration and we witnessed many different goal celebrations from him, both with Milan and Italy jersey.

Gianni Rivera outside Football

Other than football, Rivera is also a famous name in politics. He was proposed by Giovanni Goria and Bruno Tabacci to run for the Chamber of Deputies in 1987, for the Christian Democratic Party. He was chosen for the Milan-Pavia constituency and was re-elected the following year (1992). In 1994 he was re-elected on the Patto Segni list ( to which he had adhered after the dissolution of the DC) in Puglia, and again in 1996 for the Ulivo uninominal list in the Novi-Tortona constituency.

During the parliamentary term, he left the Segni movement first for Rinnovamento Italiano and then for Romano Prodi's Democrats, with which he later joined Margherita. He served as Undersecretary for Defence in the Prodi I, D'Alema I and II, and Amato II governments.

He ran for the Milan 1 constituency in 2001, against the center-right leader and AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, but failed to be elected: he then accepted the post of sports councilor for the Municipality of Rome. He took over from Mercedes Bresso, who was elected president of the Piedmont Region, as a Member of the European Parliament in 2005.

He was a candidate in the 2004 elections for the United in the Olive Tree list and received 45 000 preferences in the North-West. He joined the Non-attached Group, then in 2008, he joined the centrist political movement Rosa per l'Italia. At the 2009 European elections, he ran again for the UDC in the Centre constituency, receiving 7,600 preferences, not enough to be re-elected.

Gianni Rivera Personal Life

In this section of Gianni Rivera biography, we will take a look at his personal life and share some stories of

Gianni Rivera life story


Gianni Rivera religion

. Stay tuned.

Family, Children, and Relationships

His first daughter, Nicole, was born in 1977, with the showgirl Elisabetta Viviani. He had two more children, in 1994 his daughter Chantal and in 1996 his son Gianni, from his wife Laura Marconi, who he married on 28 June 1987 in Cetona.

The couple married with the blessing of Father Eligio, a Franciscan priest who had been his spiritual advisor and founder of the Mondo X Association for the recovery of drug addicts, for which Rivera acted as a representative. He is a Commendatore of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.


As Gianni Rivera is a famous name in Italian football, he has always been active in many charity events in his country. For example, as we said before, he was one of the active members of the Mondo X Association, which focused on helping with the rehabilitation of drug addicts in Italy.

Legal Issues

Rivera had many legal issues and disputes during his career. Speaking at the conference (Soccer between rules, sporting loyalty, and interests) in November 2012, Antonio Juliano, the former Napoli captain, stated that before the last day of the 1977-1978 Napoli-Milan championship, he and Rivera agreed that the match would end in a draw, a result that would guarantee both teams qualify for the UEFA Cup; the game ended 1-1. Rivera later stated that he did not remember the specific incident.

Gianni Rivera Career Statistics

In this section of Gianni Rivera biography, we will take a look at his career stats both on the club and international level.


During a 21 years football career between 1958 and 1979, Rivera has played a total of 684 matches in all competitions for Alessandria and AC Milan, scoring 170 goals. Most of his career was spent in Milan and he is one of the legends of the Italian club.


Gianni Rivera has also played a total of 60 matches for the Italian national team, scoring 14 goals. Many of his national team appearances were at four World Cups he played for his country between 1962 and 1974.

Gianni Rivera Honors

As a club player, all of Rivera’s awards and titles, including Serie A, Coppa Italia, European Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, and Intercontinental Cup were won while he was a Milan player.

With his country, he has won the 1968 UEFA European Championship and was runner-ups in the 1970 FIFA World Cup.

Of his notable individual titles and awards, we can mention Coppa Italia Top-scorer, 1969 Ballon d'Or winner, IFFHS Italian Player of the 20th Century, A.C. Milan Player of the 20th Century, FIFA 100, and the Golden Foot "Football Legends" among others.

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