The legendary Lazio, Italy and New York Cosmos striker Giorgio Chinaglia has died, aged 65.
Chinaglia was a member of the infamous yet hugely talented 1974 scudetto winning Lazio side, where his fiery temper and penchant for mayhem were not out of place. Having played most of his early football with Swansea (he had been brought up in Wales), Chinaglia was considered no great loss to the Welsh side as he headed home for national service and Serie C club Massese in 1966.
A promising first season in Tuscany alerted many Serie A clubs to his prowess; however a ruling in place at the time regarding players playing professionally abroad meant that Chinaglia was banned from the Italian top flight for three seasons. Two further years with Internapoli confirmed Chinaglia’s position as one of the best Italian strikers outside of Serie A and a move to Lazio ensued in 1969.
Relegation for the Rome club in 1971 proved the catalyst for change needed and under coach Tommaso Maestrelli Lazio returned to Serie A in 1972, almost clinched the title in 1973 and finally won their first ever championship in 1974.
However the Lazio team of the time, while blessed with the talents of Giuseppe Wilson, Luciano Re Cecconi and Chinaglia - a group for whom maverick was an understatement, were not universally popular in Italy and comparisons with Don Revie’s Leeds United are not wide of the mark. Indeed Chinaglia’s fall out with Italy coach Ferruccio Valcareggi at the 1974 World Cup left him ostracised at international level and unpopular with his peers, a situation which led to his premature departure from Italy to the burgeoning NASL in 1976.
Despite the claims of Pelé, Best, Cruyff, Beckenbauer and others, it’s hard to argue against Chinaglia claiming the crown as the best player to appear in the NASL. His 242 goals in 254 appearances testament that this was a player who enjoyed the best years of his career in a league that others saw as an opportunity for a final fling.
Never far from controversy, Chinaglia was a wonderful player but also bat shit mental, an endearing combination that pushes our button every time. When Dominic Bliss contacted us four weeks ago to confirm he had secured a chat with Chinaglia, we were thrilled. Only Cruyff, the late George Best and El Diego himself would have featured higher on a ‘people we would love to talk to’ list. Dominic did a great job in the short time he had with Giorgio and the legendary Italian was on good form when quizzed about his time with Lazio (you can read Dominic’s interview with Giorgio here).
We didn’t expect to find that within weeks of the interview Chinaglia would no longer be with us. Confirmation of his death, reached us on the afternoon of Sunday 1 April. An initial heart attack had seen the Italian admitted to a Florida hospital recently, and, despite appearing to have made a quick recovery, Chinaglia suffered a second, and ultimately fatal, cardiac arrest earlier today.
I’m tremendously proud that one of Chinaglia’s last interviews, if not his last, was with IBWM. A wonderful player, raconteur, and all round phenomenon, Giorgio Chinaglia will forever remain an icon at IBWM. Rest in peace brother.
Click the image to watch.