Blaise Matuidi explains why ‘the time had come’ to leave Juventus for Inter Miami, how COVID-19 changed his mind and learning to appreciate Maurizio Sarri.
The 33-year-old midfielder terminated his contract by mutual consent so that he could join David Beckham’s MLS club on a free transfer, ending three seasons in Turin.
“The time had come for a change of direction,” Matuidi told L’Equipe newspaper.
“The first contact with Inter Miami was in December, but at the time, I said it was too early in my career, as the Euros were coming up and we didn’t have all these COVID problems. The way I saw it, I’d obviously stay at Juve.
“When they called me again in June, the context had changed. Staying in quarantine made me realise I had to think about my family and spend more time with them. I looked back over my career and thought, what else are you looking for?
“Being one of the first players to test positive for this virus made me reflect on the meaning of life. At the start, I was told I’d recover in a couple of weeks, but I had two, then three tests, always positive, so that sparked a little panic. It was wonderful to get back on the pitch.
“I made the decision at the start of July and asked the Juventus directors to terminate the contract a year early. At the time, I didn’t know we were getting a new coach.”
Andrea Pirlo was appointed after Juve crashed out of the Champions League Round of 16 to Lyon, although the club insists it had already decided to sack Sarri due to the lack of rapport with the squad.
“I never had any problems with him on a personal level,” assures Matuidi. “He is a coach who works a great deal on tactics and I think he’s also a shy person, who doesn’t necessarily find it natural coming towards people.
“What struck me was during the COVID period, as I was struggling and he surprised me by calling every day to see how I was doing. I discovered Sarri the man.”
Matuidi also has some explanation for the struggles Juventus had during the post-lockdown period in Serie A, the Coppa Italia and Champions League.
“Sarri had some difficult decisions to make. There were different levels of fitness among the players and it was complicated. I know that I wasn’t in the best shape and others deserved to play, so I have no bitterness at being on the bench against Lyon.”
Finally, who would Matuidi consider his greatest teammate?
“I played with Neymar, Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo, all fantastic in what they do. If I had to choose one, it’d be Cristiano, for everything he’s done during his career and is still doing today. He’s exceptional.
“He is well aware that he’s getting older, but seeing him work the way he does, with that spirit of always wanting to be the best, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
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