Giorgio Chiellini has been one of football’s best stoppers over the last decade and the current Italy captain looks set to make his final appearance in a major international tournament this summer, writes Elio Salerno.
The 36-year-old has recorded an impressive 106 appearances for his country, 7th highest in the all-time list and along the way has unfortunately experienced more lows than highs for the Azzurri.
Chiellini’s personality and leadership qualities will be invaluable to the squad, and his presence will bring reassurance. However, his position in the starting XI is potentially up for discussion. On his day, Chiellini remains a strong centre-back and when your team is up against it, Giorgio is still the man you’d want by your side.
Injuries have been a regular occurrence for Chiellini. Last season a career-threating knee problem kept him out for the majority of the campaign, whilst this season he was reduced to just 22 starts, but in key moments and in those important games, Andrea Pirlo always turned to him for support. Chiellini knows how to get the job done.
Whilst Pisa-born Chiellini has still made an impact over the last year there have been more mistakes than before and a feeling that his defensive powers are diminishing, making him beatable. It remains to be seen if Roberto Mancini will favour playing the likes of Alessandro Bastoni or Francesco Acerbi over the Juve veteran, but it would be surprising if that turned out to the be case.
If Mancini does have any doubts, they may be because of Chiellini’s lack of integration into his Italy set-up. Of the 30 games Mancini has taken charge of, Chiellini has only played in 10 of them. Far from ideal preparation, especially as this Italy has a particular way of playing. Add in the concerns around his fitness and the potential physical issues playing in a demanding tournament could bring him, Mancini could well also choose to use Chiellini in the times deemed the most significant.
Chiellini is not the power he once was, but at this stage in his career you wouldn’t expect him to be. With one last chance to prove himself again on the big stage, it would just be like Chiellini to serve up a timely reminder of why he has been so highly regarded in the European game.
As Italy look to make their mark in Euro 2020, the partnership at the heart of their defence could well have a familiar look with Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci hoping to once again provide a rock-solid platform for the Azzurri to succeed from.