Riva with Italy in 1968
|Date of birth||November 7, 1944|
|Place of birth||Leggiuno, Italy|
|Height||1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Unanimously considered to be the best forward of his generation, as well as one of the greatest strikers of all time, Riva enjoyed a remarkable scoring record for Cagliari, thanks to his composure in front of goal, strong left foot and aerial ability. He won the 1968 UEFA European Championship and was runner-up at the 1970 FIFA World Cup with the Italian national team, and led Cagliari to their only Serie A title in 1969–70.
With 35 goals (in all official competitions), he is Italy's leading scorer of all time. Due to his speed, power, and composure in front of goal, the Italian journalist Gianni Brera nicknamed him "Rombo di Tuono" (Roar of Thunder).
Born in Leggiuno, in the province of Varese, Lombardy, he started his career in 1962 when he joined Legnano. He was acquired by Cagliari the next season and was to stay there for the rest of his career. He made his league debut for Cagliari on September 13, 1964, when the team lost 2–1 against Roma. He was Serie A top-scorer three times with Cagliari, in 1966–67, in 1968–69 and in 1969–70. His only Serie A title came during the 1969–70 season, during which he helped the club to their first ever Serie A title by finishing the season as top scorer. Although Cagliari often struggled in Serie A, and Riva was a world-class player (placing 2nd in the 1969 Ballon d'or, and 3rd in the 1970 Ballon d'or); his club loyalty was further demonstrated when he turned down a move to Serie A giants Juventus in 1973 at the age of 29 in order to remain with Cagliari.
Despite his talent and goalscoring prowess, Riva's career was blighted by major injuries. He broke his left leg playing for the national side against Portugal shortly before the 1966 World Cup. He broke his right leg, again on international duty, this time against Austria just after the 1970 World Cup. In 1976, he ruptured a tendon in his right thigh playing for Cagliari against Milan. He never successfully recovered and, despite comeback attempts, eventually retired in 1978. After retiring, he became an executive with Cagliari. He is currently a team managing staff member for the Italian national football team, and was also a member of the technical staff for the Italian national team that won the 2006 FIFA World Cup under his supervision.
Riva made his international debut with Italy on June 27, 1965 in a 2–1 defeat against Hungary. He would go on to become Italy's top-goalscorer of all-time, with 35 goals in just 42 matches, and he would win the 1968 European Championships on home soil, scoring in the final, and being named to the Team of the Tournament. In the 1970 World Cup in Mexico the Italian team finished runners up after losing 4–1 to Brazil in the final; before Mexico '70 he had scored 19 goals in 16 matches. He was Italy's topscorer in the competition and he netted a crucial extra-time goal - his 22nd in 21 internationals - against Germany in Italy's 4–3 semi-final victory, which is colloquially known as the "Game of the Century". Despite his initial dominance for Italy, he displayed a series of disappointing performances, along with many other members of the Italian squad, at the 1974 World Cup, and he was eventually dropped for the last game against Poland, as Italy were eliminated in the first round. Riva is the highest goalscorer in combined goals scored at the FIFA World Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifier matches with 17.
Style of play
Regarded as one of Italy's greatest players, Riva was a well rounded, prolific, and opportunistic forward, with an astonishing finishing skill; he was initially deployed as a winger early in his career, but was later played in a more offensive role, as a striker, where he excelled. A naturally left footed player, he had a very powerful and accurate shot, which led Gianni Brera to nickname him "Rombo di Tuono" (Roar of Thunder).
He was also capable of scoring with his right foot on occasion, or in the air due to his powerful physique, volleying ability, and his heading accuracy. Despite his strong physical attributes, he also possessed excellent technical skill and dribbling ability, as well as a very delicate first touch. In addition to his goalscoring prowess and technique, he was also an extremely fit and fast player, who excelled during sprints and at making attacking runs. He was also an accurate free-kick and penalty kick taker.
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|Italy||League||Coppa Italia||League Cup||Europe||Total|
- Serie A Top Scorer: 1966–1967, 1968–1969, 1969–1970
- Ballon d'Or:
- UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 1968
- Golden Foot "Football Legends": 2005
- Italian Football Hall of Fame: 2011
- Italy's Sports Walk of Fame: 2015.
- World Soccer: The 100 Greatest Footballers of All Time
- "Riva, the Italian roar of thunder". FIFA.com. Retrieved 2 January 2015.
- "Gigi Riva: TANTO D'ESTRO, TANTO SINISTRO". storiedicalcio.altervista.org (in Italian). Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "La top ten dei marcatori azzurri più prolifici nella storia della Nazionale". vivoazzurro.it (in Italian). 8 July 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "Nazionale in cifre: Riva, Luigi". figc.it (in Italian). FIGC. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "Qualificazioni Mondiali: Gol fatti" [World Cup Qualifying: Goals scored] (in Italian). Italia1910. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
- Roberto Di Maggio; Igor Kramarsic; Alberto Novello (11 June 2015). "Italy - Serie A Top Scorers". RSSSF. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
- Rob Moore; Karel Stokkermans (21 January 2011). "European Footballer of the Year ("Ballon d'Or")". RSSSF. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
- "1968 team of the tournament". UEFA. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- "Golden Foot Legends". goldenfoot.com. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
- "Hall of fame, 10 new entry: con Vialli e Mancini anche Facchetti e Ronaldo" [Hall of fame, 10 new entries: with Vialli and Mancini also Facchetti and Ronaldo] (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- "Inaugurata la Walk of Fame: 100 targhe per celebrare le leggende dello sport italiano" (in Italian). Coni. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 26 August 2015.
- "CNA 100 Leggende CONI per data di nascita" (PDF) (in Italian). Coni. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "World Soccer 100 Players of the Century". Retrieved 5 July 2015.
|Serie A Top Scorer
|Serie A Top Scorer
1968–69 & 1969–70