Giorgio Chinaglia: Striker for Lazio, Italy and New York Cosmos

 

Giorgio Chinaglia was fond of saying that his head was as strong as the marble produced in his birthplace of Carrara, in Tuscany, but the goalscoring prowess that earned him the centre-forward's role for Italy in the 1974 World Cup, as well as making him a prolific marksman for Lazio and alongside Pele at New York Cosmos, had inauspicious beginnings on the playing fields of South Wales.

In 1955, when Chinaglia was eight, his jobless father, Mario, uprooted the family to Cardiff, where he had successfully applied for a job in a steelworks. At first, however, emigration did little for Chinaglia's progress as a footballer, for the Catholic schools he attended into his mid-teens were biased towards rugby. When he escaped the rigours of the second row, the rangy six-footer impressed sufficiently to be selected for the Cardiff team which reached the semi-finals of the English Schools Shield in 1961-62. Attracting the attention of Second Division Swansea Town (as the current Premier League club were called), he became an apprentice professional in the summer of 1962.

Chinaglia would spend four unfulfilling years at Swansea, seldom hinting at the raw power and single-minded striking that led him to Rome, New York, wealth and notoriety. Few doubted he had something – the Western Mail ventured he "could develop into another John Charles" – but there was an arrogance that grated on senior colleagues. At 16, he was playing pranks in the dressing room and gaining a reputation as a gambler.

After cutting his teeth in the youth team against clubs such as Mumbles Rangers and Dilwyn Athletic, he graduated to the Welsh League at venues like Haverfordwest and Bridgend, where the defenders took "marking" duties literally. In February 1965, when he was still waiting for his League debut, Chinaglia berated manager Trevor Morris about his lack of opportunities, insisting that Juventus, Torino and Bologna were interested.

The claim must have seemed risible, yet after the 18-year-old's four-goal spree against Pembroke Borough, Morris picked him against Portsmouth. He flopped. Over the next 15 months he would play only five more times, his final appearance coming in a 6-1 home rout by Workington as the club slid towards the Fourth Division. In the summer of England's World Cup triumph, Swansea released him.

Years later, portraying his spell at the Vetch Field as "drinking ale and slogging it out in the mud", he added: "Best thing they ever did was give me a free transfer. It changed my life, and I'll always thank Swansea for that." After a failed trial with his home-town team, Carrarese, he joined Serie C rivals Massese, later moving to Internapoli, where his free scoring led him to Lazio in 1969.

Chinaglia, though recruited by an Argentinian coach, Juan Carlos Lorenzo, finally fulfilled his potential under the tweed-jacketed Tommaso Maestrelli, contributing 21 goals to promotion from Serie B in 1971-72. The last of his 24 goals in 1973-74, a cool penalty in a jittery stalemate against Foggia when even the hardcore fans on the Curva Nord were afraid to look, gave the club their first Italian championship. Engulfed by team-mates, he broke free to embrace Maestrelli.

Former Juventus player Omar Sivori branded him "an elephant in a china shop". Others said all he did was score goals. Chinaglia responded: "They say I'm only a finisher. But when I'm finished with the ball, it's in the net." He represented Italy 14 times, scoring four goals and creating the winner for Fabio Capello against England at Wembley in 1973. But the following year, after being substituted against Haiti during the World Cup finals, his volatility resurfaced when he made an obscene gesture and kicked down the changing-room door. He was never chosen again.

Maestrelli's death in 1976 fed Chinaglia's growing disenchantment with Italian football, and when his American wife returned to the US to raise their children there, he decided to follow, aged 28, after 98 goals in 209 matches for Lazio. The Cosmos, spotting an opportunity to woo New York's Italian community, bought him for a knock-down $750,000. His salary, $80,000 a year, was an eighth of what Pele was paid, but Chinaglia soon moved into a 14-bedroom mansion in New Jersey.

Among his colleagues was Dennis Tueart, the English attacker who told Backpass magazine this year: "Chinaglia was our leader. He had an ego the size of the Big Apple, but he just wanted to score goals and win games." Feeding off Pele's creativity before the Brazilian retired, he collected 193 goals in 213 games and helped the Cosmos win four North American Soccer League titles.

Chinaglia became a US citizen in 1979, but returned to Italy to become president of Lazio from 1983 to 1985. At the time of his death, from a second heart attack in the space of a week, he was co-hosting a daily football show on American radio.

Giorgio Chinaglia, footballer: born Carrara, Italy 24 January 1947; played for Swansea Town 1964-66, Massese 1966-67, Internapoli 1967-69, Lazio 1969-76, New York Cosmos 1976-83; capped 14 times by Italy; married twice (three sons, two daughters); died Naples, Florida 1 April 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all