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Italy and Juventus footballing icon Giorgio Chiellini calls time on playing career


MILAN: Giorgio Chiellini brought the curtain down on a trophy-packed career on Tuesday after the Italy icon announced his retirement from football.

Former Italy and Juventus defender Chiellini revealed he would be hanging up his boots at the age of 39 in a short post on social media accompanied by a video showing the highlights of his 23 years in the professional game.

“You have been the most beautiful and intense journey of my life. You have been my everything,” Chiellini wrote.

“With you, I have travelled a unique and unforgettable path. But now it is time to start new chapters, face new challenges and write further important and exciting pages of life.”

Chiellini ended his career at Los Angeles FC in the Major Soccer League — his final match Saturday’s MLS Cup final defeat to Columbus Crew — but he is best known for his exploits with Juventus and his country.

After joining Juve in 2005, Chiellini eventually became a cornerstone of the so-called “BBC” defence alongside Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci.

That defensive trio were key to propelling Juve back to domestic dominance after years in the doldrums following the ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal which exploded in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup.

Chiellini won nine consecutive Serie A titles between 2012 and 2020 and reached two Champions League finals with the Turin giants, who honoured him on social media with the message “Warrior, captain, champion. Thanks for everything big Giorgio!”

Juve also posted a video depicting helicopters lifting a giant Juve jersey, emblazoned with ‘Chiellini’ and his squad number three, from the pitch at the club’s Allianz Stadium.

Italy’s hero

Chiellini became a national hero after captaining Italy to triumph at Euro 2020, where under Roberto Mancini the Azzurri roared back from apparent footballing oblivion following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

A series of gutsy defensive displays in the latter stages of the continent-wide tournament culminated with a thrilling penalty shoot-out win over England in the final at Wembley.

The photo of him dragging back a scampering Bukayo Saka became one of the iconic images from the Euro for the Italians, who saw in Chiellini the continuation of a long tradition of rugged defenders who do whatever it takes to win.

However, Chiellini quit international football last year after 117 international caps and his country failed to reach a second straight World Cup.

In truth he had a mixed Italy career, reaching the Euro 2012 final — where Italy were outclassed by Spain, losing 4-0 — but having a difficult time at World Cup finals.

Italy exited in the group stage both in 2010 — when they were the defending champions — and 2014 before slumping to a historic play-off defeat to Sweden in 2017 which cost them a place in the 2018 tournament.

Chiellini also suffered the ignominy of being bitten by Luis Suarez as Italy exited behind Uruguay and Costa Rica in 2014.

His final Italy appearance came in the 2022 ‘Finalissima’ match with Copa America champions Argentina, a few weeks after ending 17 years at Juve.

He played the final two seasons of his career in the US with LAFC, where he won the 2022 MLS Cup before conceding the title at the weekend.

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