Lazio and New York Cosmos Legend Giorgio Chinaglia Dies of Heart Attack

Christopher HallAnalyst IApril 1, 2012

Lazio's best ever player and the North American Soccer League's all-time leading scorer, Giorgio Chinaglia, died at his Florida home on Sunday, two days after suffering a heart attack.

He got his professional start playing for Swansea, but first made his name starting in 1969 with Italian club Lazio.

In more than 200 appearances, the striker scored 98 goals. And despite a sometimes fractious relationship with fans at the time, Chinaglia was voted Lazio's best player ever during celebrations of the club's 100th anniversary.

Called into the Italy squad for the 1974 World Cup, the legendarily difficult Chinaglia threw a fit after being substituted during a group stage match against Haiti. The striker publicly insulted then-Italy manager Ferruccio Valcareggi.

The incident, coupled with Italy's subsequent elimination at the group stage, saw Chinaglia receive the scorn of Azzurri supporters. His international career ended after just 14 caps.

Two years later, the forward made the move to the New York Cosmos of the NASL. Pele is the player even casual fans remember. But Chinaglia is the player who told the Brazilian legend to play out wider to avoid getting in the Italian's way.

In 254 matches in America, Chinaglia scored a mind-boggling 242 goals. In 2000, he was inducted into the United States National Soccer Hall of Fame.

After his retirement, Chinaglia got no less controversial. He was part of an ownership group at Lazio that saw the club relegated in the 1980s.

Later, a takeover attempt at Lazio led by the former player resulted in an extortion probe. In 2006, Italian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Chinaglia that saw him unable to return to his native country during the last years of his life.