Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has issued an apology to former manager Maurizio Sarri after he refused to be substituted off in the club’s 2019 League Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
Kepa, who became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper after moving to Stamford Bridge from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 for £71m, has endured mixed success in west London, with the nadir of his stint arguably coming in that Wembley showpiece.
During Sarri’s sole season at Chelsea in 2018/19, he guided the club to Europa League success, beating London rivals Arsenal, and an appearance in the League Cup final against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
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With the match delicately poised at 0-0 in extra-time, Kepa went down with an apparent injury, prompting Sarri to turn to Willy Caballero. However, as the substitution went to happen, Kepa refused his manager’s instructions and instead stayed on the field, sparking visible uproar from Sarri.
The Spaniard saw the rest of the game out between the sticks and went on to save as penalty in the shoutout as his side lost 4-3 from 12 yards, but his reputation took a massive dent following the incident in extra time, which he has now sought to restore, giving his version of events from that Wembley controversy.
Kepa, talking to The Players’ Tribune, explained: “I tried to signal that I was OK, that I wasn’t injured. But we were at Wembley in front of more than 80,000 people, so of course Sarri didn’t understand me.
“When the fourth official raised the board, clearly I should have come off, and I’m sorry I didn’t.
“I was wrong, and I am sorry for everyone who was involved: for Maurizio Sarri, who it seemed like I had undermined in public; for Willy (Caballero), a teammate and a great professional; and for all my teammates and Chelsea fans who had to put up with everything – all the noise that was generated during the game and then in the days after.”
“It was overwhelming”
The post-match narrative was dominated by that incident, with many pointing the finger at Kepa for refusing to obey his manager’s instructions, which he has since revealed was an “overwhelming” experience, before clarifying it was never his intention to ‘disrespect’ Sarri.
He continued: “For the next three or four days it didn’t stop.
“It was overwhelming. And clearly, most people who saw the pictures thought that I had disrespected Maurizio (Sarri).
“I felt misunderstood, because it had never been my intention to snub the coach. I had only tried to tell him I was I tried to explain this to the press, but I couldn’t.”