Arguably the best defender of his generation has signed with the Los Angeles Football Club.
The acquisition bringing Italian Giorgio Chiellini to Exposition Park will be officially announced on Monday.
Chiellini, who turns 38 in August, departs Italian soccer for the first time in a career that has produced a slew of trophies for club and country while cementing his status as a gladiatorial center back.
Anchoring the backline for Serie A giant Juventus the past 15 years as well as the Italian national team, which won the European Championship in 2021 with Chiellini serving as captain for the final against England, the left-footer from Pisa is the most accomplished player ever associated with the Black & Gold.
“It’s about winning and this guy has won at the highest level,” said LAFC co-president and general manager John Thorrington. “He’s one of a kind. In my career playing and since I’ve never met a player like him. A person like him. And that came across in five, 10 minutes of my first meeting with him. I went in with very high expectations of what kind of man he would be, and he somehow exceeded lofty expectations.”
In the spring, after Italy missed qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, LAFC senior vice president and assistant general manager of soccer operations Will Kuntz followed up on a connection he made with Giorgio’s twin brother Claudio in 2017 at a forum hosted by Wyscout, an Italian soccer analysis firm.
“That planted the seed and once Italy did not qualify it became actionable,” Thorrington said. “There are these rare players like Giorgio who have won, who have been captain, who everyone speaks to in a certain regard, and when the opportunity came to sign him in a way that we could afford economically and made sense for our business and what the team needed on the field, it was a no-brainer.”
LAFC declined to disclose terms of the 18-month deal that used targeted allocation money. The compensation ceiling for TAM eligible players in Major League Soccer is set at $1,612,500 in 2022.
When the secondary transfer window opens on July 7, Chiellini could make his debut for first-year head coach Steve Cherundolo’s top-of-the-table squad the following day against the Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium.
As talks progressed in recent months, Cherundolo and Chiellini developed a quick rapport about the similarities of their lives. Both were appointed captains with a defensive mindset. Both were synonymous with their clubs. And, as fathers of two young girls, both moved across the Atlantic to participate in American soccer.
“His reasons for coming were all constructive and in line with what LAFC wants to do,” said the 43-year-old coach. “The decision making, his left foot and opening the game, his in-box defending — these are the three biggest attributes and characteristics we need here at LAFC and he is world class in all three of these. To have that right now in this particular group is going to make us better.
“If I’m a younger player at LAFC I’m very excited because I have somebody who has been there and done that who wants to contribute something and win, not just coach.”
Fluent in English, an author and Master’s Degree recipient in business administration from the University of Turin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and commerce, Thorrington described Chiellini as “highly intelligent.”
Cherundolo noted that LAFC’s newest defender, who joins a mix of young and veteran players on the backline, has already shown a strong understanding of the club’s game model and tactics.
“I’m very excited to see his opinion in a few areas where we can go both ways tactically,” Cherundolo said. “I was quite surprised about how knowledgeable he was about LAFC and the way we play. I followed our games regularly and watched them. We spoke a few times about past performances. I can tell you in his last text he is already thinking as an LAFC player, which is absolutely incredible and speaks volumes about his professionalism from him.