Claudio CaniggiaSon of the Wind
Claudio Caniggia was born 9 January 1967 in Henderson, Buenos Aires. He played 50 times for his country and was a key player in both of their 1990 and 1994 World Cup campaigns. Over a 20 year period he controversially played for both Buenos Aires giants and fiercest of rivals - River Plate and Boca Juniors. He also went on to play for some of the greatest teams in Europe.
Caniggia was a truly dynamic player, widely regarded as one of the fastest footballers ever. He was renowned for his explosive pace which enabled him to burst past defenders with ease. As a teenager he regularly participated in provincial athletics tournaments. His main event was the100 metres sprint and his personal best was an astonishing time of 10.70seconds. As a player he was timed at 11.2 seconds over the same distance.
Though he had the potential to compete in athletics at a national level, he chose to dedicate himself full-time to his true passion - football. In 1985, at the age of 18, he moved from the peace and quiet of life in the sleepy countryside around provincial Henderson, to the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires. He spent three years at River, forging his reputation as a dynamic, exciting attacker. He had also established himself in the Argentine national team.
Following consistently eye-catching performances for both River and the national team, Claudio was offered a prestigious move to Hellas Verona in Italy's Serie A. Italy had arguably the best domestic league in the world at the time and clubs such as Hellas, were under huge financial pressures to survive. Caniggia was quickly sold to Atalanta, in Bergamo, where he made nearly one hundred appearances and helped the Lombardians secure a place in the UEFA Cup.
In 1992, he moved again, this time to the Italian capital, where he had a brief but highly impactful spell at AS Roma. His pace was acknowledged and appreciated by the fans in the Stadio Olympico, who affectionately knew him as ‘Il Figlio del Vento' (Son of the Wind). However, this successful spell with Italian giants (AS Roma) was overshadowed by controversy when in April 1993 he failed a random doping test. It transpired that he had been using cocaine and was handed a 13 month ban. Luckily, the ban ended just prior to the 1994 World Cup in the USA, and Caniggia found himself thrust back into the national set up.
Controversy and adulation would follow him in equal measure for the remainder of his international career. He was frozen out of the Argentine squad for the 1998 World Cup after refusing to cut his long hair, a rule imposed by the national coach Daniel Passarella. Diego Maradona had famously said that if Caniggia was not picked for the 1990 World Cup, then he would rule himself out. Maradona's conviction was vilified as 'Cani' scored the goal that would take Argentina to the World Cup final, knocking out the host nation, Italy. However, he would not play in the final. A dubious handball decision in the semi final and a previous booking cost him his place in the biggest match in world football. After Argentina lost 1-0 in the final to Germany via a late penalty, Maradona claimed that Argentina would have won a third World Cup had his friend 'Cani' been playing.
In 1995, his powerful ally Maradona returned to Boca Juniors, and insisted to the board that they also sign 'his brother'. They relented and after a season-long loan at Benfica in Portugal, Caniggia spent the next three seasons with Boca. Tragedy struck in September 1996 when his mother committed suicide by jumping from the fifth floor of her building. He didn't play at all in the 96-97 season, taking a sabbatical to mourn her unfortunate death.
Claudio Caniggia was a renowned chain-smoker with the looks of a 'rock star' and a taste for the high life. Blessed with blistering pace, his footballing journey would encompass: River Plate, Hellas Verona 21, Atalanta (twice), Roma, Benfica, Boca Juniors, Dundee and Glasgow Rangers. In 2005, aged 37, 'Il Figlio del Vento' finally wound down a hugely eventful career playing for Qatar SC.
'To me, Cani's like a soulmate....I love him as a brother....he replaced me in the heart of the people'.