Gigi Riva, Italy and Cagliari footballing hero, dies aged 79 after heart attack

Photograph: Alamy

The Italian football legend Gigi Riva, renowned for his ­extraordinary ­goalscoring ability and widely ­considered to be one of the greatest ­strikers of all time, died on Monday aged 79.

According to la Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy’s all-time ­leading goalscorer had been admitted to hospital following a heart attack on Sunday.

Initially thought to be in ­stable ­condition, medical sources later revealed that his condition ­deteriorated and that the heart attack was more serious than anticipated.

Throughout his career, Riva ­garnered acclaim as one of the ­standout players of his ­generation, notching an impressive scoring record for Cagliari. Riva, whose ­physical presence and powerful shooting earned him the nickname Rombo di Tuono (thunder-clap).

Riva’s accomplishments extended to the international stage, where he triumphed in the 1968 European Championship and secured a runner-up spot in the 1970 World Cup, yielding only to the formidable Brazilian team led by Pelé. He also represented Italy in the 1974 World Cup.

With 35 goals in 42 official ­appearances between 1965 and 1974, Riva still tops the list of Italy’s all-time leading goalscorers. No currently active Italy ­international has even half of his career total.

Riva played almost his entire club career with Cagliari and was Serie A top scorer when the Sardinian team won the Italian league title for the only time in their history in 1970. He was honorary president of the club at the time of his death.

In his last interview, Riva told ­Corriere della Sera last June: “My ­biggest regret? My parents who didn’t see me become famous.

“When playing for Cagliari, you beat Juve, AC Milan and Inter Milan was always a great satisfaction.”

­Injuries marred the latter part of his playing career and forced him to retire in 1976, having scored 164 league goals for Cagliari in 315 matches. He was Serie A’s top scorer three times.

After his playing days, Riva assumed various roles within the football community. He worked as a senior managing official, player adviser, and consultant for the national team until 2013.

“It’s a really sad day – today we lose one of the symbols of Italian ­football, a fantastic player and above all a real man,” the former England head coach Fabio Capello said.

Reuters and Ansa contributed to this report


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