Of the two players who made headlines at BMO Stadium last summer, Giorgio Chiellini remains. Gareth Bale, LAFC’s overtime equalizer scorer in MLS Cup traded Los Angeles football scene for the golf course Meanwhile, Chiellini is preparing for his first full season in America.
After a 30-year Italian football career, over 500 league appearances, 117 national team caps, 9 Scudettos and a European Championship, the 38-year-old may want to take his feet off the gas. But Chiellini is as determined as ever to make sure his first LAFC victory in the MLS Cup last year won’t be his last.
“I’m still hungry because I’m enjoying life every day,” Chiellini said. athletic“This opportunity has given me a new life and a different experience for my family. It’s important to me.I want to leave something behind for them (from the time I’ve been here).The first thing I said to my teammates was not so much as a player, but as a good person, as a big brother. It’s impossible to play 100% of the games, but I want to be a good player, but my biggest mission is to build good relationships and help my teammates.”
Chiellini was parachuted down by an already strong side midway through last season with few expectations about the details of his role on the pitch. The win saw him appear in 11 of LAFC’s final 16 games of the season, including a starring role in the 3-0 win over Austin FC in the Western Conference Finals. .
Unlike Italy, where he has been Juventus’ vice-captain throughout the Turin side’s dominance over the past decade and has won nine consecutive Serie A titles, LAFC’s cross-town rivals LA Galaxy are set to defend the MLS Cup. No successful team.2012. But while there’s no guarantee that the reigning champions will dominate next year, LAFC is expected to come out strong again despite a significant roster change.
Cherundolo’s team has been busy in the offseason, especially in midfield and attack. LAFC retains his trio starting in his engine room, with Illy Sanchez, Querin Acosta and Jose Sifuentes rated as his trio of the best in MLS. Ecuador international Sebastian Mendes left for São Paulo, and Latif Blessing, a regular starter before 2022, was traded to the New England Revolution. Their replacements Timothy Tillman (brother of United States international Malik) and Daniel Christosomo add much-needed depth to the squad.
In attack, Gabon international Denis Buanga is looking to replace goals from Bale and Chicho Arango.
“We have changed a lot. The midfield of the team is gone, there are only 10 or 12 players from last year,” said Chiellini. “But we have a foundation, it’s a solid foundation. All the players that come in are good people, so I’m sure they’ll help us. Now everyone expects success and everyone wants to It’s not easy for us because they want to beat us, it’s normal because we are champions.”
Chiellini has repeated his experience rebuilding Juventus’ title-winning side in Italy. For him, the essential ingredient for success is desire.
“We have to keep our hunger alive. I’ve known that since I was in Italy. We still have many trophies to win and many goals to achieve. Here. The environment in is beautiful.Everyone is kind and trying to do their best and we need to keep this atmosphere going.Yes, there are problems, but if we keep fighting, we can overcome them.”
➡️ @ Chiellini drop a dime
🚀 @Mahala_jnr finish work#LAFC pic.twitter.com/3rkyNl0dhs
— LAFC (@LAFC) February 19, 2023
The team’s thirst for success and the desire to prove to the world that he is still an elite centre-back led him to leave Italy for Los Angeles at the beginning of January, where most of his teammates was still on vacation. Given his experience in Europe, where the summer offseason typically lasts about a month and a half, his two-month extension between raising the MLS Cup and officially reporting for his preseason training. A given break meant he was longing to come back for a bit.
“I was in Los Angeles all November for my daughter’s school, and I was back in Italy in December. “It’s hard to stay fit at my age, but it’s even harder when you’re alone. You need other players around you, and the first two weeks of January were tough.” .”
The period was more challenging as the world was celebrating the World Cup, and he failed to reach the tournament after Italy’s shock defeat to North Macedonia in March’s World Cup qualifiers. For Chiellini, who led Italy to victory over England at the European Championship in 2016, the pain of missing out on what was supposed to be his last major tournament in the Italian jersey was still all too fresh.
“The World Cup was weird, to be honest,” he said. “I didn’t watch much. It wasn’t good. I caught up on some of the highlights, but I was still here for that, so except for the final and the USMNT’s first match against Wales. Going to the World Cup is a big goal, so it was painful not to be there.It would have been a great experience, but I want to change the bad things and make them more positive. Not qualifying for the World Cup meant I decided to come to Los Angeles for a new challenge, and it was an unforgettable experience for me.”
He arrived in Los Angeles not only with football success in mind, but also to enrich the culture in the city he and his family call home in 140 countries and 224 languages. bottom. Like many Europeans, Chiellini found the initial adjustment from a walkable community to the car-centered life of Los Angeles difficult. Still, for someone who makes the conscious decision to look on the bright side of his life, there’s plenty to do in the Golden State to keep him and his young family entertained.
“After the Christmas holidays, I felt more calm and now I have a better understanding of the city,” he said. I wasn’t sure what it was.Now I’m learning about school,life and football.I’m starting to settle down.It wasn’t that easy at first.No walkable city center You must have a car.My daughters had COVID when I arrived and it was not an easy start but the people at the club helped me a lot.
“I enjoy everything. I enjoy football itself and the football environment and I love experiencing the city with my family. It was a big move and a big change for me. I’ve never left Livorno, leaving Italy and coming here has allowed me to discover a lot of new cultures and a different way of life outside of football, which is nice.I’m curious. I am very lucky to have found a wonderful club who is a strong man and welcomes my family and me in the best possible way.”
Chiellini has settled into life in Los Angeles, but the charm of the home remains. His contract is worth $1.075 million and expires at the end of the season, according to the MLS Players’ Association.
When he returned to Turin where he achieved worldwide fame with Juventus, dysfunction and scandal led to the Old Lady docking 15 points After a lawsuit over soaring transfer fees was reopened by Italian courts. The most successful Italian team of the century now sits in seventh place, 12 points away from a spot in the Champions League.
With several legal battles pending, fans around the world are eagerly awaiting news about the future of one of Europe’s oldest clubs. For Chiellini, who grew up in Livorno, his four-hour drive from Turin, and grew up being an AC Milan fan, being helpless in the adoption club’s struggle after spending his 2006-07 season in the Serie , is not at all unfamiliar. B. Calciopoli’s scandal stripped him of his first Scudetto.
“For me, it’s painful,” Chiellini said. “I am saddened and hurt by what is happening to Juventus. there is.
“On the pitch they have to think game by game and we will find out at the end of the season. , could be a good thing, I had responsibilities at the club, so it’s hard for me to leave the team.”
But what he can control is his personal fitness this weekend as he prepares to face the LA Galaxy in the MLS opener at El Trafico. The game will be held at the Rose Bowl and is expected to set a new MLS attendance record.
“I am feeling good and looking forward to starting in the Rose Bowl in a great environment.
“The team and the club are good. We want to defend the trophy. We will fight to the end.”
(Photo: Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)