Today is the 34th birthday of Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Born in Pisa in 1984, the young Chiellini actually started his career as a left-back in the youth ranks at Livorno.
After eight appearances across two seasons in Serie C1, the youngster was signed by Roma in a co-ownership deal, but remained in Tuscany after Livorno had won promotion to Serie B.
Having made six appearances in the 2002-03 season, Chiellini cemented his place in the starting XI for the following campaign, making 42 appearances across all competitions and scoring four goals.
That prompted Livorno to buy back the other half of his contract for €3m, and they turned an immediate profit by selling him on to Juventus for €6.5m.
Chiellini wasn’t deemed ready to compete for a starting shirt in Turin, so another co-ownership move saw him head to Fiorentina, with the Viola paying €3.5m for half of his registration.
In his debut Serie A campaign, still playing at left-back, the defender continued to impress, scoring three times as he played in all but one of Fiorentina’s top-flight games.
That convinced Juve that he was ready to join up with the squad, and the Bianconeri paid €4.3m to buy out the Viola’s share in Chiellini.
Playing under Fabio Capello, Chiellini made 17 appearances as the Old Lady eased to the Scudetto, but Chiellini was about to suffer the first big setback of his career.
The Calciopoli scandal broke that summer, with Juventus relegated to Serie B and having their most recent two Scudetti revoked.
Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero, Pavel Nedved, David Trezeguet and Mauro Camoranesi earned legendary status in Turin by remaining with the club, and Chiellini also opted to drop down a division.
It was in Serie B that he first started playing in the centre-back role for which he’s famous today, scoring twice in a 5-1 win over Arezzo which mathematically sealed promotion at the first time of asking.
Injuries to Jorge Andrade and Domenico Criscito the following season saw Chiellini make the centre-back slot his own, with Juve finishing third on their return to the top-flight.
By now a regular Italian international, having made his debut in 2004, Chiellini became a fixture of the Bianconeri defence in the subsequent seasons, but major silverware continued to elude him and his teammates.
That was finally rectified in the 2011-12 season, when new Coach Antonio Conte opted to field a three-man backline with Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli joining Chiello as the basis of a 3-5-2 system.
The backline which would become known as ‘The BBC’ was imperious in that campaign, as Juve won the Scudetto unbeaten.
The trio remained the bedrock of the side, along with Buffon in goal, as the Old Lady triumphed in each of the next five seasons, with three Coppe Italia arriving in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
For Italy too the BBC became a fixture, with the Azzurri reaching the final of Euro 2012, and going out on penalties at Euro 2016 under Conte.
On the European stage, however, success has so far eluded Chiellini.
A disappointing defeat to Benfica cost Juve the chance of making the Europa League final on their home patch, while Chiellini missed the 2015 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona with an injury.
Another run to the final followed in 2017, but the Bianconeri were once again beaten, this time thrashed 4-1 by Real Madrid in Cardiff.
Adored by Juve fans and reviled by others for his uncompromising style on the pitch, away from football Chiellini has enjoyed success in the world of academia.
In May last year he received a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Turin, presenting a thesis on ‘The Business Model of Juventus Football Club in an International Context’.
It appears then that Chiellini will not struggle for employment when he does hang up his boots, but at 34 there’s plenty of life in the tough-tackling centre-back yet.
He's still an integral part of Max Allegri's Juve team, and has hinted recently that he may change his mind on his Italy retirement.
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