Luigi “Gigi” Riva, Italy’s all-time national team goalscorer, died at the age of 79, Italian media announced on Monday.
Riva, nicknamed Rombo di Tuono (thunderclap) because to his strong presence and tremendous shooting, scored 35 goals in 42 national team appearances.
Riva fell unwell at home in Sardinia over the weekend and was hospitalised for a possible cardiac condition.
He was a member of Italy’s European Championship-winning squad in 1968, as well as the 1970 World Cup, when they finished second against the legendary Brazil team led by Pele.
Riva, like his namesake Gianni Rivera, became a poster child for Italian football when colour television made live action more accessible. In 1969, he finished second to Rivera for the Ballon d’Or trophy, which is presented to Europe’s finest player.
Riva spent almost his entire club career with Cagliari, and he was the top scorer in Serie A when the Sardinian side won the Italian league championship for the first time in history in 1970. He was honorary president of the club when he died.
Injuries plagued the later stages of his playing career, forcing him to retire in 1976 after scoring 164 league goals for Cagliari in 315 games. He was the Serie A top scorer three times.
Riva went on to work as a part of the national team’s backroom staff for several years, notably when Italy won the World Cup in 2006.