When you’re 38 years old and have experienced the sort of success Giorgio Chiellini has, you should be pretty well-placed to make a judgment on head coaches.
Across his illustrious career that has yielded nine Serie A titles, a European Championship and much more, Chiellini has worked under some of the greatest coaches of the modern era, including Massimiliano Allegri, Antonio Conte, and Fabio Capello.
Now it’s Steve Cherundolo calling the shots for Chiellini and ahead of LAFC’s first-ever MLS Cup appearance on Saturday – where they go head-to-head with the Philadelphia Union at Banc of America Stadium – the 117-time Italy international has heaped praise upon his head coach.
“He’s a very calm person and he gives us the confidence and the calmness we need in this moment. But also there were some moments during the last part of the season in which he was hard,” said Chiellini.
“He doesn’t speak so much but everything he said is true. All the team respects and loves him.”
Chiellini isn’t the only Black and Gold star impressed by Cherundolo, of course.
“He’s gotten the best out of all of us,” midfielder Kellyn Acosta said. “He’s implemented his systems and his tactics and I think, as a group, we bought into it.”
Ilie Sanchez added: “This is his team. This team has his identity. Everything that we do and that we can achieve, it’s because of him.”
LAFC’s choice to replace Bob Bradley at the start of the 2022 season wasn’t immediately popular. Given their status as a competitive team in a glamorous market, with some of the wildest fans in MLS, some expected the club to appoint a big-name coach from Europe.
However, plenty of due diligence was carried out before LAFC settled on Cherundolo and the club have taken great satisfaction in watching him prove his doubters wrong.
“We were getting attacked,” LAFC co-president Larry Freedman said. “A lot of the fan base thought we were going to hire an A+ caliber guy from the Premier League or something. But without exception people in the global game, people that Steve had played with, the people that really, really knew Steve and had intimate knowledge of his career and his path and him as a human, every one of those messages was, ‘Congratulations, you hired an amazing guy. He’s going to do great things.’”
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