Sports

LAFC Signs Former Juventus Defender Giorgio Chiellini

Legendary Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini has signed with MLS side Los Angeles Football Club following the expiration of his contract with Juventus, becoming the latest European star to make the move to the United States. Chiellini tweeted the news on Monday following weeks of reporting and speculation.

In joining MLS, Chiellini follows fellow Italians Lorenzo Insigne, Sebastian Giovinco, Matteo Ferrari and Andrea Pirlo, who all joined MLS later in their playing careers. The 37-year-old center back signed a contract through the 2023 season and is expected to be available for selection when the summer transfer window opens in July. He was signed using targeted allocation money and will not occupy LAFC’s vacant designated player slot, providing the team some roster and cap space flexibility.

“I don’t think there is a mold like [Chiellini]. I think he’s unique,” LAFC general manager John Thorrington told ESPN. “I can’t think of another player who has his track record of being a captain and is a serial winner and all the rest. It’s not as though there are a lot of these players.”

Chiellini leaves Serie A side Juventus following a decorated 17 years with the Turin club, where he is third on its all-time appearance list behind only Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon. With Juventus, he won a record nine consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2020 as well as five Coppa Italia titles and five Supercoppa Italiana titles. He also played in two UEFA Champions League finals, in 2015 and 2017. Chiellini has been named in the Serie A Team of the Year five times and was awarded the Serie A Defender of the Year three times,

He also announced his retirement from international duty having played his last match for Italy at Wembley earlier this month in the UEFA Cup of Champions, the “Finalissima.” Having made his international debut in 2004, Chiellini retires with 117 caps, making him Italy’s joint fourth-highest appearance holder. He helped the Azzurri win UEFA Euro 2020, reach the final of UEFA Euro 2012 and win a bronze medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics.

In LA, Chiellini will join a formidable team that currently sits atop the Western Conference standings after a disappointing 2021 campaign in which LAFC missed out on the playoffs. One-third of the way into the 2022 season, LAFC has scored the most goals in MLS this year (29) and has been solid defensively, with only five teams conceding fewer goals. The Black and Gold have a talented group of center backs, including 19-year-old Mamadou Fall and veteran 28-year-old Jesus Murillo, that will likely embrace the opportunity to learn from the Italian defensive legend. Although he is in the twilight of his playing career, the front office is hoping that Chiellini’s presence and leadership in the locker room will pay dividends for the squad.

“The way I look at it is it’s a good group that’s going to get even better, and I think Giorgio adds something different to that group,” Thorrington said. “But I do know what Giorgio adds will make every other one better.”

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