Italy and Los Angeles FC defender Giorgio Chiellini has opened up about the infamous foul he committed on England and Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka during the UEFA Euro 2020 final last year.
Chiellini, 38, captained his nation to glory in last summer's continental competition after beating England on penalties in the summit clash. However, his decision to foul Saka in the injury-time of the contest has remained a crucial talking point even after more than a year.
In the 96th minute, the match was tied at 1-1 and destined to go into extra-time. Saka managed to get past Chiellini on the right flank but the veteran centre-back decided to cynically bring the forward down by grabbing his collar. Chiellini received a yellow card for the foul.
Speaking to The Times, Chiellini revisited his memory of the crucial incident of the contest and claimed that pulling the left-footed forward down at that juncture of the match was a 'good choice'. He said:
"I never thought this [pulling Saka back] could be the memory of the summer. For me, OK, I made a mistake and a foul in the smartest and best way possible because I think I can protect the ball and let it go out."
"But he passed me under my arm and the first thing I see is to try and grab him. Saka is too fast for me.
"If I started one or two moments before, I can run with him but if he goes, it is impossible. This is a good choice for me after a mistake."
After the match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes of action, Italy emerged triumphant 3-2 on penalties, with Saka missing his team's fifth and decisive spot-kick. Chiellini lifted the famous European Championship trophy for Italy, their second win in the tournament since 1968.
Meanwhile, Saka has established himself as a crucial member of Arsenal's first-team plans. After registering 19 goal contributions last season, he has already netted once and laid out four assists in eight appearances across all competitions in the 2022-23 season.
Arsenal are currently sitting atop the 2022-23 Premier League standings with 18 points from seven matches. The club will next be in action against city rivals Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, October 1.
Kevin Campbell confident Bukayo Saka will sign new deal at Arsenal
Speaking to Football Insider, former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell said that a positive outcome is awaited with both the Gunners and Bukayo Saka prepared to prolong their association. He said:
"I think the deal will get done. The club and the player won't be a million miles away. There'll be a negotiation, like anything else, but the deal will get done."