Giorgio Chiellini-94bde182

‘MLS Not the Best League For Defenders’ – Will LAFC’s Chiellini Gamble Pay Off?

In this article, the author, Ryan Tolmich who writes for Goal takes a dive into the adaptability of departing Juventus captain and centre back, Giorgio Chiellini to the raw pace of the Major League Soccer in the United States. See excerpts below.

The Italy icon will arrive in MLS on a TAM deal after leaving Juventus, but there are legitimate questions over the 37-year-old’s adaptability

The abiding image of Giorgio Chiellini’s last appearance for Juventus could not have been more fitting.

There he was with blood streaming from his head, a wounded warrior laying it all on the line one more time for the club he called home for nearly two decades.

It was a sight those present in Florence for Chiellini’s final Serie A outing had seen many, many times before: the centre-back, head wrapped, pushing his teammates on, fighting, leading.

However, while the Italian has also subsequently brought the curtain down on his international career, he isn’t retiring. On the contrary, he’s now about to embark on a new adventure at club level.

As revealed by GOAL, he’s trading in the black and white of Juventus for the black and gold of LAFC. He’s swapping Serie A for MLS, the familiar surroundings of Turin for the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles.

That move, though, comes with questions, concerns, and intrigue. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but can a 37-year-old pitbull find a new lease of life in Hollywood?

Chiellini will arrive in MLS not as a Designated Player, but on a TAM deal, making him a relatively affordable signing for LAFC.

This is a European Championship winner, after all. He’s also a nine-time Serie A champion, a five-time Serie A team of the Year selection, a three-time Serie A Defender of the Year.

You can go on and on, but those are the highlights. The point is: Chiellini is a legitimate icon of not just Juventus, but of Italian soccer.

However, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from MLS’ evolution in the last decade, it’s that past glories do not always translate to success stateside.

MLS is, by all accounts, an absolute grind. It’s a different life and a different challenge than life in Europe. And, at 37, Chiellini’s ability to adapt is being rightly questioned.

It may sound tongue in cheek, like the infamous ‘cold wet windy night in Stoke’ argument, but there really isn’t anything that prepares you for playing in Houston in the summer.

There aren’t many challenges like playing on turf in Portland and Seattle. And there’s nothing in Europe quite like a roadtrip that sees you play in Vancouver and Orlando on back-to-back weekends.

Stars have struggled to adapt to those challenges in the past. Steven Gerrard famously admitted that he wasn’t prepared for what he faced in MLS.

“How can I put it?” Gerrard said during his time with the LA Galaxy. “When I turned up here, I didn’t know there was humidity in Houston, didn’t know there was altitude in Salt Lake. I didn’t know a lot about a league that was new and a bit of a shock to me at the time.”

Chiellini’s former teammates Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco, meanwhile, discussed the tactics, or lack thereof, in the league, although the style of play has taken a slight step forward since those two left the league.

“It’s a beautiful kind of soccer,” Pirlo said. “It’s fast. Technical not so much yet, but maybe with the arrival of European coaches it will improve in that regard.”

“The beauty of this league is there are fewer tactics,” Giovinco added. “For supporters, it’s good to go to games because there are lots of goals and nice play…

“For attackers it’s better because there are more chances to score. For a defender, it’s maybe not the best.”

For an LAFC team that likes to run and play on the counter, is it risky to have a 37-year-old covering ground in one-on-one situations in a league this fast?

LAFC is betting that Chiellini is an upgrade, that he can handle the league and all of its nuances. And, so far, the club has more often than not bet correctly when it comes to player signings.

This time, they’re betting that Chiellini is the piece that can lead them to an MLS Cup. The money was right and, in their eyes, so was the fit.

They’re betting on Chiellini to provide the defending, leadership and mentality to take this club to another level.

If he does, then there’s a chance that he can lift one more trophy before he calls time on his illustrious career.

The lasting image of Chiellini at Juventus is already out there. But this is Chiellini’s chance to create one last memory, to make one final statement, before he hangs up his boots, and his head bandages, for good.

This article was originally published by Ryan Tolmich on Goal

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