Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini could barely contain his excitement. On Twitter over the weekend, Chiellini responded to several posts from Los Angeles Football Club's social media team with the side-eye emoji, perhaps trying to convey how he's looking forward to calling Banc of California Stadium home for the remainder of the season.
Chiellini was an integral part of the Italian club Juventus' nine-year run of consecutive league titles and captained the Italian national team to victory in the 2020 European championships, after which he was named defender of the tournament. He is one of the greatest defensive players of all time, and will easily become the most decorated player in LAFC's history once he dons the shirt.
Now, he joins an LAFC team that has allowed the fifth fewest goals in MLS (16) through 14 matches so far this season; adding a player of Chiellini's stature could make LAFC's defense that much more difficult to penetrate, for multiple reasons.
"I think we found a unique opportunity to make the team better. Anybody you speak to who knows Giorgio, he's one of a kind in terms of what he brings every day. His competitiveness, his experience, his leadership. It's one thing to have done what he's done and succeeded in the ways that he has, but what is all the more impressive is his eagerness to impart all of that wisdom to his teammates," said John Thorrington, LAFC general manager. "Whether it be with Juventus or the Italian national team, other people credit Giorgio for the difference he made in their career as players."
Now that his tenure at Juventus and the Italian men's national team are behind him, Chiellini will be focusing on helping LAFC continue its strong start to the season and the overall goal of lifting the MLS Cup trophy at season's end. The Italian comes to LAFC with one of the world's most impressive resumes, but Chiellini doesn't arrive as a savior; he's joining the strongest team in the league so far this season, so while his experience, leadership and on field quality will all be welcomed additions, his ability to seamlessly transition into LAFC's roster is paramount. LAFC's backline has performed well by committee, and continues to work Eddie Segura, recently back from injury, back up to full strength. The hope is that Chiellini's impact for LAFC is two-fold; the front office is hoping that he will come in and play at a high level, but also raise the level of the team's young defenders.
"We see [Giorgio's experience] as a great compliment to our team in general, but if you think about the impact he can have on our center backs in particular- you think of Fall, Murillo, Segura, Danilo, Sebastian- I just think he'll be invaluable in terms of what he can do to help bring our team together, to continue the great work of getting a group of players who are super committed to what we are doing with the intent of winning something this year. We think Giorgio will be another element to help us towards that end."
Chiellini will be available for selection once the summer transfer window opens on Thursday July 7th. His recent play with Juventus and Italy give the LAFC technical team hope that he will be able to hit the ground running, but expect to see minutes allocated evenly among the team's group of center backs. Chiellini is not here to be the foundation of the back line, he's here to be another brick in the wall. He'll likely be given time to acclimate to his new coaches and teammates before featuring in a starting XI, but once that time comes, head coach Steve Cherundolo is excited for the prospect Chiellini in the middle of LAFC's defense.
"Giorgio is one of the most experienced and successful center backs of his generation. What he's learned and shown us for club and country over the years has been nothing less than incredible, and for him to bring that here to us at LAFC will be invaluable to the players next to him," Cherundolo said. "It'll be invaluable off the field as well; the leadership skills that he has will help us in the locker room and in moments in games where things aren't going well. The list of ways he'll help us goes on and on. We welcome him here to L.A."
From an X's and O's standpoint, Chiellini showcased his trademark physicality during last summer's rescheduled Euro 2020 tournament. His bruising yet effective style of play will reinforce LAFC's defense, while his passing ability, far above average for a MLS defender, could become an important part of LAFC's build from the back playing style. At 37, he remains a tremendous defender at the highest level, as evidenced by his winning Defender of the Tournament last summer during the Euros. On paper, the partnership looks like it could be a match made in heaven.