Kepa Arrizabalaga apologises to Maurizio Sarri.
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has apologised to the club’s former manager Maurizio Sarri for a “big misunderstanding” during the 2019 League Cup Final against Manchester City.
Arrizabalaga made global headlines for appearing to snub Sarri’s instructions to come off in place of Willy Caballero towards the end of extra time, with a penalty shootout looming.
Kepa Arrizabalaga and Maurizio Sarri had a high-profile disagreement.
It appeared that the Spaniard was injured but he was seen to wag his finger towards the bench as Caballero limbered up, indicating that he was okay to stay on.
Naturally, Sarri took exception to this and was seen to stomp around the technical area and make his way towards the tunnel, before thinking better of it and turning around.
Arrizabalaga did manage to save one spot kick during a shootout from which City emerged victorious, but a large proportion of the post-match chat surrounded the goalkeepers’ antics.
The 26-year-old has now put his side of the story forward in a lengthy article for The Players’ Tribune.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: Incident with Maurizio Sarri “was all a big misunderstanding”
“It was all a big misunderstanding,” Kepa writes. “Manchester City were dominating the game in extra time and there was barely any time left until penalties. After making a save, I felt something in my leg and I called for the physio to make sure it was nothing. Above all, though, I wanted to make sure that we as a team could catch our breath.
“Suddenly, I saw that the coach, Maurizio Sarri, had sent Willy Caballero to warm up. He thought I couldn’t go on. My intention, right or wrong, had only been to waste time to help the team. I didn’t have any serious problem that was going to keep me from continuing to play.
“I tried to signal that I was okay, that I wasn’t injured. But we were at Wembley in front of more than 80,000 people, so of course Sarri didn’t understand me. When the fourth official raised the board, clearly I should have come off, and I’m sorry I didn’t.
“I was wrong, and I am sorry for everyone who was involved,” he continues. “For Maurizio Sarri, who it seemed like I had undermined in public; for Willy, a teammate and a great professional; and for all my teammates and Chelsea fans who had to put up with everything — all the noise that was generated during the game and then in the days after.”
Arrizabalaga was dropped for Chelsea’s next match, a 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, and he recalls how he and Sarri “talked about how we had each seen the situation, and we cleared the air.”
“I still have a fantastic relationship with Maurizio.”
However, this didn’t prevent the criticism coming from outside the club, as he explains: “When I picked up my phone in the dressing room after the League Cup final, I realised that I had become worldwide news. For the next three or four days it didn’t stop. It was overwhelming. And clearly, most people who saw the pictures thought that I had disrespected Maurizio.
“I felt misunderstood, because it had never been my intention to snub the coach. I had only tried to tell him I was OK. I tried to explain this to the press, but I couldn’t.
Luckily, now it is just an anecdote from the past. I still have a fantastic relationship with Maurizio. And next time, in a similar situation, I will know what to do.”
Kepa managed to put the situation behind him to help The Blues to the Europa League trophy just three months later.
IT'S OURS! 🏆
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 29, 2019
Subsequent poor form has seen him replaced between the sticks by Edouard Mendy and his contribution to Chelsea’s Champions League success under Thomas Tuchel last season was limited to a watching brief.
Arrizabalaga’s article for The Players’ Tribune is titled “It’s Time You Get to Know Me” and you can read it in full here.