If ever an athlete appeared to emulate Machiavelli's Prince in
an attempt to consolidate power, it was Italian-born soccer star
Giorgio Chinaglia, who led the New York Cosmos to four North
American Soccer League (NASL) titles between 1977 and '82. A
center-forward with neither exceptional quickness nor grace, he
scored an astounding 193 goals in 213 NASL regular-season games,
not including seven in one playoff match. Though he played
alongside international stars such as Pele, Carlos Alberto and
Franz Beckenbauer, Giorgione, as he was nicknamed, aroused the
most passion among fans.

During the Cosmos' run of championships, Chinaglia (kee-NAL-ya)
made no apologies for wielding his influence. He publicly
castigated teammates, Pele among them, when he found their
effort lacking; on lavish vacations with Steve Ross, the Cosmos'
owner, he recommended roster moves and coaching changes. At
first the fans accepted Chinaglia's backroom maneuvering, but he
came to be perceived as a fat cat whose meddling blurred the
line between labor and management. It didn't help his approval
rating that, at a time when the NASL was awash in debt, he would
arrive at postgame interviews wearing a silk dressing gown and
then depart to his 22-room mansion in Englewood, N.J., where he
had hung two portraits of himself by LeRoy Neiman. "Someone had
to make things exciting," he recalls. "Remember, I was not just
another player. I was Chinaglia, the one and only. I made the
impossible happen."

At least he did on the field. After retiring in 1983 as the
NASL's leading career goal scorer, Chinaglia, intoxicated with
ambition, purchased a majority interest in the Cosmos, convinced
that he could rewrite its balance sheet the way he did the
record books. Yet by that time America's interest in pro soccer
had dwindled. Within a year, the league folded and Chinaglia
returned to Italy.

Now 51, Chinaglia is still playing the power broker in the
soccer world. He's in the process of purchasing a club in
Budapest and serves as the director of sports for both a
television station and a newspaper in Rome, where he lives with
his wife, Angela, and their children, Donald, 15, and Anthony,
12. Giorgio also remains refreshingly unstinting with his
opinions. Asked, for instance, to compare the NASL to its
contemporary incarnation, Major League Soccer, he says simply,
"The players in MLS couldn't shine our shoes."

He remains, in other words, Chinaglia, the one and only.

--L. Jon Wertheim

COLOR PHOTO: GEORGE TIEDEMANN [Giorgio Chinaglia on cover of Sports Illustrated] COLOR PHOTO: GIANNI GIANSANTI/SYGMA [Giorgio Chinaglia]

"Remember, I was not just another player. I made the impossible
happen."

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