Giorgio Chiellini recalls the time Napoli rival Kalidou Koulibaly ‘melted my heart’ after his own goal against Juventus earlier this season.
Chiellini courted controversy for his no-holds-barred criticism of Felipe Melo and Mario Balotelli in his new autobiography, ‘Io, Giorgio’.
However, he depicted Kalidou in a far-more flattering light as he also admitted his surprise at receiving a message from Inter icon Javier Zanetti following his ACL injury.
“Of course, I suffered, like everyone else, but it was also beautiful,” he wrote, as reported by Tuttosport.
“Everyone called me, starting with my teammates. I read hundreds of messages, some of them I was expecting, some less so, others not at all.
“I was very pleased to read one from Javier Zanetti. I’d never talked to him before. Another one I didn’t expect from was Pepe Reina, the former Napoli goalkeeper, who wrote some very beautiful words.
“Other Napoli players called me, for example Insigne and Koulibaly, but with them I had a relationship unlike the one I had with Reina.
“I respect Koulibaly a lot and I got to talk to him, to understand what kind of person he was.”
The Senegalese turned into his own net back in August to gift Juve a 4-3 win against Napoli, prompting the 35-year-old to hug him on the pitch.
“I think back to our embrace on the Allianz Stadium pitch after his own goal in Juve-Napoli on August 31.
“Being the person that I am, I almost regretted the gesture I made him. Perhaps it would’ve been better for us to hug in the dressing room and keep this thing between just ourselves.
“But it came spontaneously. I looked for Kalidou, going to him on my crutches. The night before, he’d written to me ‘good luck’.
“I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with him. A player so strong, a person so decent that in the 92nd minute of a key encounter, he makes such a mistake!
“Seeing him with that face melted my heart: I felt I had to comfort him with a couple of words, nothing more.
“’You’re the best, everyone makes mistakes. Keep working like you know how and all things pass.’
“I want to be a player for everyone, not just Juventini.”
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