Goal.com 50: Giorgio Chiellini (34)

We continue our countdown of our 50 best players of 2008-09, and at 34 is tenacious Bianconeri centre-back Giorgio Chiellini…
35. Grafite (VfL Wolfsburg & Brazil)

34. GIORGIO CHIELLINI (Juventus & Italy)

33. Kaka (AC Milan & Brazil)

Giorgio Chiellini’s season got off to a bumpy start as he suffered a rather serious injury during the traditional Trofeo Berlusconi meeting between Juventus and Milan in August.

There were fears in the Bianconeri camp that he had ruptured knee ligaments, which could have potentially brought the curtain down on his campaign, but it turned out to be just a muscular problem.

‘King Giorgio’ took it on the chin and less than a month later he was already back into the fold to command Claudio Ranieri’s defensive line for their Champions League opener against Zenit St. Petersburg after a two-year European hiatus in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal.

Despite a great start in Europe’s premier club competition, ‘Chiello’ and Juve could not quite get into gear in Serie A as they already found themselves trailing pacesetters Inter by seven points in mid-October.

The turning point proved to be the big-match with Spanish giants Real Madrid in October: Chiellini was admirable in shackling the Merengues’ attacking machine of Raul, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gonzalo Higuain.

He did not miss a beat, even when his ‘other half’ Nicola Legrottaglie limped off at half time and made way for the shaky Olof Mellberg.

From then on Juventus hit their stride in the league, rekindling their title ambitions with superb wins over Roma, Milan and Fiorentina.

However, Chiellini suffered a relapse of his muscular problem during the dismal home defeat to Cagliari on January 31 and Juve, deprived of their defensive rock, once again lost their momentum at a crucial stage of the season.

But the Italy centre-back completed another astonishing comeback to fly to London and face Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

Rock Steady | Solid at the back, Chiellini is also a
notable attacking force from set plays

The 24-year-old was also on hand ten days later to break down the resistance of local rivals Torino in the Derby della Mole and his winner helped the Bianconeri keep pace with relentless leaders Inter.

Juve’s season dramatically died after crashing out of the Champions League, but the appointment of former defender Ciro Ferrara in place of Claudio Ranieri will certainly go a long way toward helping Chiellini establish himself as one of the best centre-backs in the game.

He will be able to learn a few more tricks of the trade from Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro next term after the Neapolitan controversially agreed to return to the club he had left following Juve’s demotion to Serie B because of their involvement in Calciopoli.

The first ‘test drive’ did not exactly go according to plan, the duo looking unusually dodgy at the Confederations Cup, with eventual winners Brazil ripping apart Marcello Lippi’s back line with ease.

Ferrara has a tough job on his hands to oil the newly-formed defensive partnership, but you can bet he will succeed.

Vince Masiello, Goal.com

35. Grafite (VfL Wolfsburg & Brazil)

34. GIORGIO CHIELLINI (Juventus & Italy)

33. Kaka (AC Milan & Brazil)