Giorgio Chiellini has confirmed that he will be leaving Juventus at the end of this season.
The 37-year-old centre-back subsequently ends a near two-decade association with Italy’s most decorated club. Having joined from Livorno in 2004, before the powers that be sent him on loan to Fiorentina for a year, the Pisa-born defender leaves Turin on the back of accumulating nine Serie A titles and five Italian Cups.
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“I give way to the youngsters, as next year I will not be here,” he told Sport Mediaset. “On Monday I will say goodbye to my stadium, and Fiorentina will be my last match. I say goodbye with joy to this team, of which I will be the biggest fan, because Juve will always stay with me.”
“We had these 10 magnificent years, it is up to the others to continue now. I did everything I could, I hope that I left something. It is my choice 100 percent, I am happy to leave at such a high level, because for many years I have said I didn’t want to finish struggling and not being able to play at my level. I gave it my all, soon I will be the biggest Juventus fan from the outside. After so many years within this club, you cannot shake it off.”
A crown fit for King Chiellini. 👑 pic.twitter.com/Y7gGltfDHW
— Squawka (@Squawka) July 12, 2021
For much of his tenure Chiellini forged a near impregnable defence alongside Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci, the fabled ‘BBC’, with Gianluigi Buffon keeping goal.
“Chiello was my centurion, my security, my rock,” Buffon told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He was, and still is, a friend I shared a good chunk of my life with. Far more than a player or simply a teammate. We understood each other perfectly, we were aware of our strengths and limitations.”
Once putting Juve in the rear view mirror, Chiellini will play his 117th and final game for the Azzurri against Argentina at Wembley in June, the game pitting the European and South America champions against each other.
Who will be Juventus’ next captain?
Massimiliano Allegri has a decision to make: who’ll lead Juve in their 2022/23 campaign. Chiellini’s protégé Matthijs de Ligt could be an option; the 22-year-old Dutch centre-back is no stranger to leadership as he previously guided boyhood club Ajax to a surprise Champions League semi-final appearance
Paulo Dybala is a front-runner, he’s the vice-captain, but the Argentine playmaker could also leave the club. Chiellini’s longtime partner-in-crime Leonardo Bonucci might enter the picture, which means a sensational u-turn on Allegri’s part, the Italian centre-back wasn’t considered to wear the armband heading into this campaign. Even though he donned a leadership role under Andrea Pirlo the incoming Allegri dismissed any idea of that under his stewardship due to Bonucci temporarily leaving the club for Milan.
“The captain and vice-captain are decided depending on how long they’ve been playing in the team. So Chiellini is the most experienced one, followed by Dybala,” he declared.
“Bonucci left for one season, he made that decision, so if he wants the captain’s armband he must buy it and play with it in the street. Leo is aware of that. In my last season at Juventus, Mario Mandzukic and Sami Khedira wore the captain’s armband, because Leo had fallen behind in the pecking order.”
Bonucci, though, felt Allegri’s words were tongue-in-cheek feeling his assessment was made to “dampen any tensions” between player and coach.
“Many have judged and insulted me without knowing,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “But I always give my best on the pitch.
“I always made the pitch do my talking. The coach made a joke to dampen the tension.
“Time passes with chatter. Captain or not, I know what I must do inside the dressing room and on the pitch.”
It remains to be seen where Chiellini ends up. There’s been several reports linking him with a move to Major League Soccer with ESPN confirming The Athletic‘s report that Los Angeles FC have made the Euro 2020 winner an offer to join them in the summer.