Juventus fail to give Chiellini the send-off he deserves as Inter end Coppa Italia drought with thrilling win

By Sports Desk May 11, 2022

In the context of a generally disappointing season for Juventus, securing one last trophy for a club great before he begins a new chapter would've at least provided one reason to look back on 2021-22 with a degree of positivity.

It remains to be seen exactly what happens next for Giorgio Chiellini. After all, he suggested on Tuesday that he might not have even been playing football at all this season were it not for Italy's Euro 2020 success.

But remaining at Juventus has become increasingly unlikely over the past few weeks, with a move to MLS – rather than retirement – strongly mooted despite him being contracted to Juve until next June.

In Tuesday's pre-match news conference ahead of the Coppa Italia final, Chiellini – perhaps as you'd expect – at least attempted to deflect the focus from himself, seemingly adamant he didn't want to be the big story ahead of the game.

Yet, regardless of his obvious deflection the day before, it will have been tricky for many to not look at Wednesday's showpiece as the last meaningful match of Chiellini's storied career for the Bianconeri, with little riding on Juve's final Serie A matches of the campaign.

Twenty trophies, 559 appearances – third only to Gianluigi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero – and countless head injuries, Chiellini's laid everything on the line and dedicated the majority of his career to Juve, even when the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid apparently came calling

But that one last trophy was a dream too far, with Inter ending their 11-year wait for a Coppa Italia triumph by emerging 4-2 victors after extra time.

As far as small mercies go, Chiellini could at least take solace in the fact he at no point looked out of place on the big stage.

Nevertheless, as good a defender as he's been down the years, there wasn't much Juve's captain could've done to prevent his side falling behind in a frantic first half at the Stadio Olimpico.

Nicolo Barella received the short corner and the run of Ivan Perisic created space for him to unleash a sumptuous curling effort into the top-far corner, the ball floating well out of the reach of Chiellini's not insignificant head.

But Inter became strangely negative after getting themselves in front, with Juve crafting several presentable chances as they became the controlling force – Chiellini found himself involved further up as a result as well, a comical fish-out-of-water-like run into the final third leading to a foul by Edin Dzeko.

Juve's superiority told early in the second half as a period of concerted pressure led to the ball dropping kindly for Alex Sandro, whose first-time strike found its way in via a deflection off Alvaro Morata.

Inter barely had enough time to look at the scoreboard before they found themselves trailing, as Juve sprung a brilliant counter and Dusan Vlahovic found the net at the second time of asking.

The game soon entered the realm of Chiellini, whose seven clearances at the end of the 90 minutes was a match high.

Within moments of Juve's second goal, the 37-year-old crucially blocked a cross that Dzeko was primed to tap home – true to form as a full-blooded centre-back, he celebrated his clearance as if he'd scored.

Soon after he was on hand again with a vital header, but like with the opener, he could only watch on as Inter levelled in the 80th minute. Chiellini's centre-back partners Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci tangled with Lautaro Martinez, who appeared to invite contact and then hook his foot around the latter's leg before tumbling.

It was as ingenious as the ultimate VAR-confirmed penalty decision was farcical, but Hakan Calhanoglu converted the spot-kick and Chiellini's night was soon over.

Soon after an important interception/clearance ahead of the lurking Martinez, Chiellini made way, perhaps owing to the knock received in that collision with the Inter striker.

Even at that point there was almost a sense of foreboding. While perhaps not a decisive presence at the other end, Juve were suddenly without their most experienced player and leader – the personality in the side dropped considerably in that one change.

It was fitting that De Ligt – a player who has flattered to deceive since essentially being brought in as Chiellini's long-term successor – proved to be the one to gift Inter the lead in extra-time, clumsily tripping Stefan de Vrij and allowing Ivan Perisic to rifle home the penalty, with the Croatian's spectacular second soon after signalling Juve fans to head for the exits.

As Inter players joyously made their way to the Nerazzurri end of the stadium at full-time, a dignified Chiellini trudged onto the pitch and shared a speechless embrace with Massimiliano Allegri.

While Chiellini helped Juve to more success than most players enjoy in a lifetime, when it came to giving him a fitting send-off, the Bianconeri failed him.

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