There were incredibly emotional scenes in Turin on Monday as Juventus played host to Lazio in their final home game of the Serie A season — a game they used to bid a fond farewell to two of their long-serving players.
After 17 years at the club, Chiellini started the game against Lazio but only after Juve fans displayed a giant tifo in the terraces that saluted “CHIELLO” and his service to the cause.
The 37-year-old centre-back has played 560 times for Juve since his arrival in 2004, winning nine Serie A titles and a host of other major honours as well as becoming club captain.
With nothing riding on the match for Juve, who had already sealed a top-four finish, Chiellini’s involvement against Lazio came to an end after just 17 minutes — a reference the length of time he’s spent at Juve — when his number came up over on the touchline. This sparked a rapturous ovation inside the ground as Chiellini began to make his way off the pitch while being flocked by his teammates. He also made sure to hand over his armband to Dybala en route to the dugout.
A Juventus icon.
Giorgio Chiellini left to a standing ovation. 🖤 🤍 pic.twitter.com/mGaxsrJxQq
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 16, 2022
Chiellini then embarked upon a lap of honour around the perimeter while the game was still in progress, waving to his adoring fans as they festooned their hero with warm applause, chants and tossed scarves.
Juventus went on to secure a 2-2 draw, but not before Dybala was also treated to a ceremonial final substitution in the 78th minute.
Naturally, the first player to greet Dybala after his substitution was Chiellini, who was lying in wait on the sideline with his trademark grin etched across his face and the offer of a timely embrace.
Dybala has not been offered a new contract extension at the Old Lady and will therefore be leaving the club this coming summer amid reports that Arsenal are interested in bringing the 28-year-old on board when he becomes a free agent.
There were yet more tears after the final whistle as Dybala was given his own lap of honour, repeatedly mopping his eyes as his bid farewell to the thousands of Juve fans who stayed behind to say their goodbyes.
🔚 Ha jugado las 7 últimas temporadas en el club bianconero
⚽️ El argentino anotó 144 goles en 402 partidos
— El Partidazo de COPE (@partidazocope) May 16, 2022
Back in the locker room, both players received yet more hugs and well wishes from their colleagues in the aftermath of the game which saw Sergej Milinkovic-Savic rescue a late point for the visitors with the very last kick of the evening.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) May 16, 2022
Both players then re-emerged for one last hurrah on the pitch, with Chiellini accompanied by his children as he got a special guard of honour by members of both Juve’s men’s and women’s teams. He then stood in the centre-circle while the crowd chanted his name.
“My story here makes me proud; I leave with so much serenity and happiness,” he told Sky. “I have always said that I would have liked to leave at a high level, and I have succeeded. It was not an easy year, but I managed to prepare for the matches well.
“This gave me more incentive to leave now and make room for the young players. Now it’s up to the young: Juve needs to restart and the boys have to take responsibility to grow and become strong.”
Chiellini is due to formally announce his retirement from international football with Italy next week, after the Euro 2020 winners play Copa America holders Argentina at Wembley in the first-ever “Finalissima” match between the champions of Europe and South America.
However, he remains unsure as to precisely what the future holds in terms of his next club endeavour, although sources have told ESPN that LAFC are interested inbringing him to Major League Soccer.
“I haven’t decided yet, but it’s true that experiences abroad enrich,” he said. “To leave my comfort zone [Juventus] will be good for me for my future and what I will want to do next.”
As for Dybala, the former Palermo striker bows out having scored 115 goals in 291 games for Juve while winning five Scudettos and four Coppa Italia trophies during his seven seasons in Turin.
After all of the fans had left and the party atmosphere had died down, he was still sat on the pitch, taking one last look around the stadium and feeling the grass beneath his bare feet.
A fitting end to an evening full of emotions.