Monday May 11 2020
Chiellini: 'Koulibaly melted my heart'

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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