Giorgio Chiellini, the former Juventus centre-back, has admitted that he regrets turning down a move to Arsenal in 2001. The ex-Italy international revealed that the Gunners offered him a huge salary when he was just 16, but he felt it would be a betrayal to leave Livorno. Arsene Wenger was keen to bring the defender to North London, but Chiellini has revealed that he was too loyal to Livorno at the time. The nine-time Serie A champion has stated that he was offered a whopping 200 million Italian Lira-a-year by Arsenal, which was roughly around £66,000-per-year.
Speaking to So Foot via Goal in February 2021 about his failed move, the 38-year-old said: “In hindsight, I was a fool to decline that offer. I was 16, I played in Serie C, I got a huge offer for just under 200 million lira-a-season. I didn’t feel ready. If I had accepted, it would have given the impression of betraying Livorno.”
Chiellini would leave the following year for Roma, before linking up with Juventus 15 years ago. He received 117 caps for Italy before retiring from international football earlier this year. The centre-back then also bidded farewell to Juve in 2022, as he joined Los Angeles FC.
Chiellini could have ended up at Arsenal later in his career after Robin van Persie revealed he urged Wenger to sign him, however his plea was ignored. On the Effe Relativeren Podcast last year, the ex-Gunners skipper said: “At a given moment I felt called upon to say what Arsenal could do better in order to win the league. 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. You could see that when he played against Holland a few weeks ago.
“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.”
Chiellini’s revelation about his failed move to Arsenal highlights how difficult it can be for young players to make decisions about their future. At the time, he felt that leaving Livorno would be a betrayal, but in hindsight, he realizes that he missed out on a great opportunity. It also shows how important loyalty can be in football, as Chiellini’s decision to stay at Livorno helped him develop into the player he is today.
It’s interesting to note that van Persie’s plea for Wenger to sign Chiellini was ignored, as it suggests that the Frenchman had his own ideas about how to build a winning team. However, it’s clear that van Persie recognized the value of having players like Chiellini in the side, and his comments about the Italian’s winning mentality are telling.
Overall, Chiellini’s story is a reminder of how important it is for young players to make smart decisions about their future, and how loyalty can sometimes hold them back. It’s also a reminder of how valuable experienced players like Chiellini can be to a team, and how they can help instill a winning mentality in their teammates.