Kepa Arrizabalaga has finally apologised to the former Blues manager Maurizio Sarri, three years after the Spaniard refused to come off in the penalty shootout of the 2019 Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
Chelsea were playing against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final in 2019. After 90 minutes of the play the game ended in a goalless tie. Kepa was suffering from a cramp so Maurizio Sarri called up Willy Cabellero for the penalty shootouts to replace the 26-year-old.
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However, Kepa Arrizabalaga ignored his manager’s calls and remained on the field, going on to save one penalty as Chelsea lost 4-3 in the shoot-outs. His teammates begged him to go off but the player stood his ground as Sarri went down the tunnel in rage. Caballero was a penalty shoot-out expert having previously won the competition for City in 2016.
What has Kepa Arrizabalaga said
Kepa Arrizabalaga described the incident as ‘a big misunderstanding’ with Sarri incorrectly believing his goalkeeper was struggling when in fact Kepa was only wasting time to help the team get to penalties.
He told The Player’s Tribune: “Let’s just deal with that here once and for all”. “It was all a big misunderstanding. 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.
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“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 OK, 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: for Maurizio Sarri, who it seemed like I had undermined in public; for Willy, a team-mate and a great professional; and for all my team-mates 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.”
The Spaniard faced a lot of criticism for his refusal to come off and also suffered from poor form in the following season. Kepa is now the backup goalkeeper at Stamford Bridge after Chelsea signed Edouard Mendy last year. Kepa Arrizabalaga became the world’s most expensive goalkeeper when he joined Chelsea for £71m from Atletico Madrid the previous summer and went on to win the Europa League in his debut season.