Giorgio Chiellini has pulled the curtain back on his failed move to Arsenal at the start of his career – admitting he was a ‘fool’ to reject a Premier League switch.
The veteran centre-back has gone on to become one of greatest in his position while at Juventus and racking up an impressive collection of 13 major trophies during his 16 years in Turin, but the Italian has expressed regret over an early decision in his playing days.
Chiellini started off as a promising defender at Livorno, and in 2001 he attracted interest from Premier League giants Arsenal – who were then a European giant and regular challengers for the title under Arsene Wenger, boasting stars such as Thierry Henry and Denis Bergkamp.
He was just 16 at the time when he was approached by the Gunners and says he regrets rejecting their advances – admitting it was ‘a huge offer’ but simply didn’t feel ready to leave Livorno.
‘In hindsight, I was a fool to decline that offer. I was 16, I played in Serie C, I got a huge offer,’ he told French outlet So Foot.
‘I didn’t feel ready. If I had accepted, it would have given the impression of betraying Livorno.’
Chiellini ended up staying with his boyhood side for another three years as he was bough by Roma in a co-ownership deal and later loaned out to Fiorentina. Juventus came calling in 2005 as they signed him for just £3.8million.
In Turin he became a superstar as he nailed down a regular position for more than a decade – featuring more than 500 times for the club, scoring 36 goals.
He has been a crucial part of the club’s nine successive Scudetto wins as they hunt for a tenth this season under Andrea Pirlo. Chiellini has also led Juve to the Champions League final on two occasions.
Chiellini is one of many big name stars who came close to joining Arsenal under Arsene Wenger’s tenure.
The Frenchman has recounted the story of how Cristiano Ronaldo nearly signed for the team as he invited the Real Madrid star’s mother to the training ground. The Gunners also tried to tempt Lionel Messi from Barcelona in 2003.
When Chiellini was a fully-fledged star at Juventus, he was wanted at Arsenal once again – but by former striker Robin van Persie, who attempted to persuade Wenger that the club needed a ‘killer’ with a winning mentality.
‘At a given moment I felt called upon to say what Arsenal could do better in order to win the league,’ he told Kaj Gorgels’ YouTube channel.
‘I felt we lacked a winning mentality, and asked Arsene Wenger to sign Giorgio Chiellini. I have played against him a few times, and he is a genuine winner.’
‘He is 36 years old, but he’ll dish out nine elbows every game with a smile on his face. He’ll keep smiling and never get a yellow card.
‘You need those types of winners and killers in your side. I felt we should get him.’
Van persie later departed the Gunners for Manchester United in 2012 after becoming frustrated with a lack of silverware in north London.
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