Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has described what happened during that event in the 2019 League Cup final against Manchester City, when he seemed to reject that he would be replaced despite coach Maurizio Sarri calling him to the bench.
Kepa, who received treatment from Chelsea physios, was marked to be replaced by Sarri with the game goalless in the dead glow of extra time, with defender and penalty specialist Willy Caballero coming in as his replacement.
However, Kepa defied his boss and signaled to the bench that he did not intend to leave, leading to bizarre scenes that culminated in Sarri almost storming down the Wembley tunnel.
The event became worldwide news. Kepa’s actions sparked debates about the limits of “player power”, despite Sarri himself trying to play it down after the cup final – which Chelsea eventually lost on penalties.
Kepa, who was dropped for the next match and fined, has largely fought for form at Chelsea ever since and was replaced as first-choice by Edouard Mendy last season.
By writing about his career journey for The Players’ Tribune, Kepa discussed the whole affair far from his own perspective, which he describes as a “big misunderstanding”.
I often feel that people know who we are football players, but that hardly anyone really knows us. Well, at least I did not go down without explaining myself first. “I hope it helps change that. @ TPTFootball https://t.co/ALLPUW3bo5
– kepa Arrizabalaga (@ kepa_46) July 26, 2021
The Spanish goalkeeper admitted that he was simply trying to waste time by calling the physios for extra time and was not really injured at all – something Sarri, apparently, did not get.
Kepa writes: “Manchester City dominated the game in extra time and there was hardly any time left for penalties. After making a save I felt something in my leg and I demanded that the physio make sure it was nothing. Above all, but I wanted to make sure 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 could not continue. My intention, right or wrong, had only been to waste time helping the team. I did not.” I have no serious problems that prevent me from continuing to play.
“I tried to signal that I was okay, that I was not injured. But we were at Wembley in front of more than 80,000 people, so of course Sarri did not understand me. When the fourth official took over the board, clearly I should have resigned, and I’m sorry I did not.
“I was wrong and I’m sorry for everyone involved: for Maurizio Sarri, who seemed to have been publicly undermined; for Willy, a teammate and a great professional; and for all my teammates and Chelsea fans who had to to put up with everything – all the noise that was generated during the game and then in the days that followed. “
Kepa also described the dropout from the final and insisted that while “inside the club it was no big deal”, it became difficult to deal with outside.
Kepa during the League Cup final 2019 / Marc Atkins / Getty Images
He continues: “When I picked up my phone in the locker room after the League Cup final, I realized I had become worldwide news. The next three or four days it did not stop. It was overwhelming.”
Kepa also addressed his image in form over the past two seasons as he continued to be affected by negative coverage and online abuse.
“Little by little, I lost my self-confidence and ended up making some mistakes. Of course, I understood the criticism. We play under pressure, and it’s part of the job to deal with negative coverage. But sometimes it goes too far. It’s okay to say that “A player has made a mistake, but when you just go out and hurt someone, or write lies that have nothing to do with football, you cross a line,” he added.
“When your family and friends read horrible things that are said about you, it affects them, and so indirectly it affects you as well. In the end, we are just people trying to do our jobs as best we can.”
Read the full article on The Players Tribune