Chiellini's Italy retirement: Remembering his Euro 2020 play-fight v Jordi Alba

Chiellini hugs Jordi Alba

Italy captain Giorgio Chiellini has confirmed he will call time on his international career after the Azzuri face Argentina in the Finalissima on June 1.

The clash, which pits the reigning European Championship and Copa America holders against each other, takes place at Wembley Stadium – site of Italy’s Euro 2020 final triumph over England last July.

Speaking to DAZN after his club side Juventus defeated Sassuolo 2-1 on Monday night, Chiellini admitted that he could think of no better venue for his international swansong.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 11: Giorgio Chiellini, Captain of Italy lifts The Henri Delaunay Trophy following his team’s victory in the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Final between Italy and England at Wembley Stadium on July 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/UEFA via Getty Images)

“I’ll say goodbye to the national team at Wembley, where I experienced the pinnacle of my career by winning the Euros,” revealed the veteran central defender.

The 37-year-old, who has played 116 times for his country to date, is famed for his no-nonsense approach to the game, even brushing off being bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez during a heated encounter at the 2014 World Cup.

“Malice is part of football, I wouldn’t call it illegitimate. To get past a rival you have to be smart. I admire his cunning,” Chiellini reasoned when recalling the incident in his 2020 autobiography.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Giorgio Chiellini of Italy interacts with Jordi Alba of Spain during the penalty shoot out coin toss during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium on July 06, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

However, there was absolutely no malice or ill-will displayed by Chiellini during what was undoubtedly one of the biggest moments of his career in the Euro 2020 semi-final.

Deadlocked with Jordi Alba’s Spain after 120 minutes of closely contested action, Chiellini led his troops into a decisive penalty shoot-out to determine who would advance to the final of the tournament.

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The Wembley air was thick with tension as both nations prepared for the most crucial of spot-kicks. Chiellini, though, couldn’t have seemed any more at ease as he playfully jabbed at his opposite number Alba before wholeheartedly embracing him just moments before the shoot-out got underway.

A heartwarming scene between two great competitors – and it seems fitting that we remember it as Chiellini announces his decision to step away from the international game.

You can re-live the epic show of sportsmanship below.

Watch: Giorgio Chiellini play-fights with Jordi Alba before Euro 2020 semi-final shoot-out

Of course, the night ended in glory for Italy, but Chiellini would later insist that his pre-shoot-out antics were purely about him trying to have fun, rather than gain any kind of mental advantage.

He told members of the media in the days after the match: “You can see in these last matches that I have grown as a player but I am also really savouring every last drop of my career.

“I always have a smile on my face but have the utmost respect for my opponents. I will hug them, smile or have a laugh but that’s something that I have always done. I have done that in these games and even more so in this European Championship. I am trying to really enjoy every single moment.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Giorgio Chiellini of Italy interacts with Jordi Alba of Spain during the penalty shoot out coin toss during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Semi-final match between Italy and Spain at Wembley Stadium on July 06, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

“It wasn’t mind games [with Jordi Alba]. That’s how I am in good and bad times. My teammates love me and there may be times when opponents like me less, but I feel there’s always mutual respect.”

Italy’s shock failure to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar has almost certainly brought forward Chiellini’s international retirement by at least a few months. That said, the memories of what he has achieved during his time with the Azzurri will live on for years to come.

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