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3 reasons why Giorgio Chiellini might make sense at LAFC

Some 4D chess explanations.

Italy Travel To England Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Update, June 13, 2022: The deal is official, and Chiellini is indeed a TAM signing. So read the rest of this with that in mind, please.

Giorgio Chiellini has been linked to LAFC for weeks, and let me remind you, we are currently living in the year 2022. He’s 37, set to turn 38 in several weeks and is leaving the European game for the softer landings of MLS, reportedly.

To say this move has been considered quizzical by most MLS watchers would be an understatement. The collective reaction has been “Huh?” And you know, I would add myself to that chorus, too. LAFC seem to have a solid stable of center backs, with one of their stars in Eddie Segura just returning to the matchday squad the other day after a torn ACL. Chiellini is old, and does he have the speed to keep pace in a transition-heavy league like MLS? Can he stay healthy enough to actually contribute on the field?

Those are good, and open questions. Here’s another wrinkle to ponder: If LAFC managed to sign him to a TAM deal, then fair enough, but please @ the soccer gods, let’s not see a Designated Player signing here. That would throw much of the following into a much different light.

But if it’s a TAM deal, let’s walk through the reasons in which this signing could make sense for LAFC:

The adventurer

There’s been a wide variety of effort levels given by European stars in coming to MLS over the years. On one hand, there’s your Thierry Henrys, your Wayne Rooneys, and on the other end of the spectrum, your Gonzalo Higuains, your Andrea Pirlos. Some knuckle down and treat MLS seriously, others come for a working vacation and many are somewhere in the middle.

We won’t know until he’s here, but I would wager Chiellini would be more in the “grinder” category. First, he’s a defender so he’s not as likely to get away with coasting through training sessions and games, but he’s never had that reputation in his career. Part of the reason he was so huge in Italy’s campaign to win the Euros last summer was because he was still taking care of himself, working hard and doing what he needed to for the team. I think that would continue in MLS.

Furthermore, Chiellini isn’t a common top footballer in a few other ways. He’s fluent in English, so the language barrier would be nonexistent despite being the only Italian on the roster. He’s also highly educated, managing to not only earn a bachelor’s degree in Economics but also a master’s degree in business, both while in the prime of his career with Juventus. Does that technically matter when playing a sport? No, but I think this shows he’s not a sheltered guy with no real interest in the outside world. On the contrary, I think he will relish a new challenge, coming to a global city like Los Angeles and getting a new perspective on the sport and life on the other side of the world. That “adventurer” spirit could help pave the way for Chiellini to come to LAFC in the right frame of mind and deal with the challenges along the way.

The leader

If you could think of one thing LAFC has been lacking the last few years, what would top your list? For me, it’s vocal leadership. I’ve written about this before, but while I think Carlos Vela has dispelled nearly every negative stereotype about his game while in MLS over the past several years, as a leader he’s very much a “lead by example” player and there have clearly been moments where the team has collectively wilted in the moment. I think it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a guy with tons of experience standing up in a locker room and holding the floor, or getting in a huddle before kickoff and saying just the right words to perk up his teammates. Chiellini’s done it again and again over the years for club and country.

I think he could help raise the level at the club, too. Given Juventus won nine league titles in a row with him anchoring the defense, he’s also won two lower league titles in Italy, five Coppas Italia, reached the UEFA Champions League final twice and won the Euros with Italy, he’s seen pretty much everything in the top echelon of the game. Hopefully he can help raise the expectations around the team, in a constructive way, and encourage teammates to prepare better, concentrate harder and give everything on the field. Given LAFC have a checkered history to date in knockout games, perhaps his veteran knowhow could be that little 0.5% that could push the club over the top when they need it.

The mentor

Here’s where I really get into extremely long view territory. On some level, you can’t have too many center backs, with LAFC going five deep so far this season (having to draft one midfielder, Ilie Sanchez, to start at CB for a game). Even with Segura back, injuries and other absences happen so you might as well add another member to the group, especially if he can raise the level.

While I certainly hope Chiellini comes in to be a rotation starter for LAFC and not a player who plays every single minute (unless he looks 28 and is flawless, I guess), his ultimate contributions could be bigger off the field, as a mentor for LAFC’s defenders and in particular, one youngster in Mamadou Fall. The Senegalese center back has been a fixture for the past year in LAFC’s defense, by looking like a budding MLS Defender of the Year candidate, scoring a pretty high number of goals for his position and having monster advanced stats to back it all up. At his age, he’s been tremendous and there’s projections he could become a real star in Europe.

So why not bring in one of the most consistent high-level center backs of his generation to mentor him in person for 6-18 months? Chiellini can really give Fall the info he needs to make the move abroad successfully, and of course, try and win for LAFC while they’re here together. What’s not to love?

Furthermore (here’s where I’ll get way out there), have you ever noticed when foreign coaches and players in MLS get interviewed in the home country, sometimes they get asked about talented players they’ve come across? Could you see a scenario where Chiellini is asked by the Italian press if any MLSers have caught his eye, and he starts raving about his teammate, Mamadou Fall? “Wow, this kid, he’s special, I hope a Serie A club is preparing a transfer bid right away!” etc. And if all that happens, maybe that will push a bid or two to fruition, or put Fall’s transfer fee that much higher? If Chiellini ends up impressed by Fall and does some free PR for his teammate, that could prove to be a big windfall for LAFC.

So anyway, that’s what I have for why Giorgio Chiellini, a rather odd signing otherwise, may make some actual sense in some intangible ways for LAFC. We’ll keep you posted as and when this one gets over the line officially.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.