Giorgio Chiellini believes it will be “beautiful” to end his international career against Argentina at Wembley on Wednesday after leading Italy to Euro 2020 glory at the London ground last year.
The now 37-year-old was a key figure, both as captain and defender, when Italy beat hosts England on penalties in the final of a tournament that was delayed some 12 months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Now the Azzurri face the South American continental champions in the inaugural Finalissima at Wembley on Wednesday, a match where Chiellini is set to win his 117th and last cap.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini is likely to include a number of his Euro 2020 stars in the starting XI for a match he has said represents the “end of a cycle” following the shock failure of the four-time winners to qualify for this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
Chiellini, asked about ending his international career against Argentina, told UEFA.com: “It’s beautiful.
“Argentina have exceptional players. It’s obvious that the first one who comes to your mind is (Lionel) Messi but the others around him are fantastic. They didn’t win (the Copa America) by accident.
“Messi is a football icon. It’s not for me to say if he is the greatest of all time or not. It will just be a pleasure to play my last game for the national team against him.
“It has been, without a doubt, better than I could ever have imagined. When you’re a kid, you dream of playing for the national team, because that’s the ultimate.
“The thought of being able to play more than 100 games over the course of 18 years, being captain, and lifting an important cup like I did last year at Wembley was the icing on the cake.”
Chiellini, who has already played his last game for Juventus after 17 years at the Turin club, added: “I’m at peace. I feel happy with what I achieved and a little bit of pride for what I achieved in my career.”
Chiellini’s long-time club and international central defensive colleague Leonardo Bonucci said returning to Wembley, where his goal cancelled out Luke Shaw’s early opener for England in the Euro 2020 final, would be an emotional experience.
“I often think about it,” Bonucci told a pre-match press conference. “That goal allowed us to get to the penalty shoot-out and (for me) to score another goal in the shoot-out, so it’s a very emotional feeling for me.
“But then football puts you in front of reality and in reality you can’t rely on your memories. You need to keep growing, you need to keep improving and striving for more.
“We made history in this stadium, but it’s important to start over again.”