Gianni Rivera has fondly recalled his time at AC Milan, while expressing some doubts about whether all the summer signings will gel for the new season.
Rivera is a figure that is synonymous with Italian football and with Milan, having played the majority of his career with the Rossoneri after beginning it with hometown club Alessandria.
He was part of a very successful Milan side in the 1960s, one that won multiple domestic and European honours. Rivera ended up with Serie A titles and two European Cups and was also the team’s captain for 12 seasons.
He is known as one of the best passers and creators in Italian football history and he won the Ballon d’Or with the famous No.10 shirt on.
Rivera spoke in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport which was published the day before his 80th birthday and it allowed him to reflect on what he has achieved in football and what is still to come.
What have you been doing all these years?
“After I stopped playing, I became vice president of Milan, then I spent 22 years in Parliament. Then I returned to football in the Federation, five years in the youth sector at Coverciano. I took various licenses, I became a professional coach.”
Almost 80 years old. Is today a good day?
“A birthday is always a good day. There are many people who don’t make it to 80. Besides, the concept of age no longer exists. Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger at 80 give concerts. Not to mention who governs the world . At the White House, for example. Astronaut John Glenn at 77 is back in space.”
De Niro said his life was wonderful, he made all his dreams come true. And Gianni Rivera?
“I’ve always liked Robert De Niro as an actor. I’ve always liked myself as a player. I’ve turned a hobby into a profession. That’s no small thing, believe me. The total balance? Very, very positive. I’ve been lucky, in life I’ve met very important people. My parents, my wife, my children.”
And on the field?
“Giuseppe Cornara, the first real coach. He convinced the president of Alessandria to register players under the age of 14, like me.
“Then Franco Pedroni, who had the courage to make me debut in Serie A. I hadn’t yet 16 years old. And my great Paron, Nereo Rocco. I shared a large part of my career with him. I was one of his family.
“At Milanello there were the players’ changing rooms and those of the technical staff. He moved his locker close to ours. He took a shower with us, he told us about Siora Maria, his wife. And about his children Bruno and Tito.”
Your first memory in Serie A was a debut against Inter, how did you feel?
“I was dazed, but not excited. Pedroni said: guys, don’t curse, a child is playing today. I remember Angelillo: he wanted to score at all costs. He was only aiming for the top scorer…”
“Twenty years old. I got up from the table at 36, a little hungry. But with cups, league titles, Ballon d’Ors and much more. Milan has been a great, beautiful part of my life.”
Your last game at San Siro in 1979 was against Bologna with microphone in hand. On Monday, Milan will play their first game of the season against the same opponent. What will we see?
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. Tonali has left, they made a choice linked to a program. I don’t know the plans and the routes. They have signed a lot of players, but I don’t know what they will be able to do. Let’s see, let’s wait. But don’t ask me Scudetto predictions. I don’t want to make a bad impression.”
Leao now has the No.10. Platini said that number is magical, it’s the history of football. All the strongest players – Puskas, Pele, Rivera – had that number…
“True. But now it counts less than then, anyone can put any number. Back then they were from 1 to 11 and each one had a certain characteristic. Then one day I saw the 10 worn by a goalkeeper. If I remember correctly, Lupatelli from Chievo. The world has changed.”
Now you have the license, you are a coach with the credentials. What will you do?
“If they [Italy] call me, I’ll go straight away. In fact, I offer to be coach. I’m here, I’m free. I used to coach when I went on the pitch as a player. Why not do it from the bench?
“It’s even more restful. Experience? I don’t need it, for twenty For years I’ve often been a coach on the pitch. And then I was born already knowing what to do.”
How important is a coach?
“When I played, 20%. Now it’s fundamental: you need a person who takes responsibility for everything that happens.”
Silvio Berlusconi lasted 31 years. He has won everything. Why didn’t you get on with him?
“Because he didn’t allow me to. Because, I’ve always said, he considered everyone at his service and no one worthy of him.”
Your first president at Milan was Andrea Rizzoli, who in 1963 left the club when you were 20.
“I saw him a year after I was at Milan, at the end of the first half. He was sitting on a bench in the dressing room. Alone, almost shy. I asked Cesare Maldini: who is that? But how, don’t you know? It is the president Rizzoli.”
But with whom were you negotiating salary?
“With Gipo Viani before and the directors after. There was no agent. I did everything, even when I was 18.”