Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini signs deal to join LAFC

Hislop warns Chiellini over potential LAFC move (1:32)

Shaka Hislop expects the 37-year-old Giorgio Chiellini to struggle should he move to MLS. (1:32)

A transfer that has been reported for weeks is finally official: Longtime Juventus and Italy national team defender Giorgio Chiellini has signed with LAFC, the team said Monday.

Chiellini signed a contract through the 2023 season and is expected to be available for selection for LAFC when the summer transfer window opens in July. He was signed using targeted allocation money and will not occupy the team's vacant designated player slot.

"I felt very strongly about this new chapter in my career and I am grateful to LAFC for this opportunity," Chiellini said in a statement from the club. "I'm thankful for all my years with Juventus and I'm looking forward to winning many more trophies in Los Angeles."

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For LAFC, the signing breaks new ground. Since launching in 2018, the club has mostly focused its efforts on signing younger players as opposed to big-name veterans near the end of their careers. With Chiellini, however, general manager John Thorrington said it was an easy decision to bring him aboard.

"I don't think there is a mold like him. I think he's unique," Thorrington told ESPN. "I can't think of another player who has his track record of being a captain and is a serial winner and all the rest. It's not as though there are a lot of these players.

"I think that is why it was such a no-brainer for us. Once we sat with him, understood what his motivation was -- his why as to choosing LAFC. For us, what he's done in his career, the type of man he is, which I got to know more of through conversation.

"That experience was one where he exceeded lofty expectations that all of us would've had just knowing the type of career he's had. What we see in Giorgio is unique in his experience, in his leadership, of his ability to set an example every day."

Chiellini, 37, joined Juve in 2004 from Livorno and went on to win nine league titles and five Italian Cups during his time in Turin. He is third on the club's all-time appearance list. Over an 18-year international career with the Azzurri, Chiellini had 117 caps, with his last coming in the Finalissima loss to Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1.

The origin of the move to Major League Soccer can be traced back to a European conference attended by LAFC assistant general manager Will Kuntz last year. It was there where he connected with Chiellini's twin brother, Claudio Chiellini, the sporting director at Italian side Pisa. At that time, a summer transfer in 2022 didn't make sense as Giorgio Chiellini had planned to remain with Juventus in advance of the 2022 World Cup.

However, when Italy was eliminated March 24 with a 1-0 loss to North Macedonia, Chiellini became open for a move, and talks with LAFC quickly ensued. Through a series of Zoom calls with LAFC's executive team and ownership group, both parties determined it was a good fit.

In LAFC, Chiellini joins an MLS team that sits atop the Supporters' Shield standings at 9-2-3. In 14 games, the Black and Gold have scored the most goals in MLS this season (29), and only five teams in the league have conceded fewer (16).

He joins a talented stable of center-backs that has mainly used the pairing of veteran Colombian Jesus Murillo and 19-year-old Mamadou Fall of Senegal. Doneil Henry, who made seven starts for Canada during World Cup qualifying, has played just 134 MLS minutes in five appearances, while the team is also expected to have Eddie Segura available after a long injury absence.

"The way I look at it is it's a good group that's going to get even better, and I think Giorgio adds something different to that group," Thorrington said. "But I do know what Giorgio adds will make every other one better.

"And so certainly, like we have across our roster, it's very competitive. And I think what that group will afford the technical staff is the ability to make decisions to rotate, to manage the players in order to set the team up for success. It brings some tactical flexibility. We have some center-backs that play right side, left side, that can play in a back three, can play in a back four. So, we jumped at the chance to do it."

In the coming weeks, Thorrington expects to be able to announce the signing of a third designated player, too. The team began the year with only wingers Carlos Vela and Brian Rodriguez occupying DP slots -- the three roster places that do not factor into the salary cap -- and has vetted several players who could arrive in the summer.

"We typically target attacking players with our designated players and I would say that's still the most likely option," Thorrington said. "However, with the performance of the group, I think for the first time in recent memory, we are open to other options as well. So whether that's an attacking midfielder or an attacker that plays in our front three, we are still evaluating different options."

A new contract for Vela is also expected to be announced soon, according to multiple sources. The former MLS MVP's original contract is up this summer and the sides have discussed a new deal for months.

"I trust we'll have clarity on that in short order," Thorrington said.