Juventus confirmed on Friday that captain and veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini has suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and will undergo surgery, leaving his status for the rest of the season in serious doubt.
The injury took place in training earlier in the day, and the club did not give any official timeline for the 35-year-old’s recovery. ACL tears usually take 6-8 months for a full recovery to match fitness, although his advanced age could contribute to a potentially longer recovery time.
Chiellini’s injury is a stunning one, given that the stalwort defender has not missed significant time in his entire 12-year Juventus career. He joined in 2005 from Fiorentina, appearing in 17 games his first season in Turin has he broke into the squad, and he has not looked back, registering at least 21 league appearances in every single season since, although he has tapered off a bit, failing to reach 30 league appearances in any of the last five campaigns.
The 35-year-old started and played the full 90 minutes in Juve’s Serie A season opener last weekend against Parma, starting at center-back alongside fellow veteran Leonardo Bonucci. 20-year-old Matthijs de Ligt, whom Juventus signed this summer for a whopping $97 million, was on the bench and is likely the next man up to take Chiellini’s place, meaning he will play a significant role in his first season with the Italian giants.
While serious injuries such as ACL tears do strike any and all demographic of athlete, Juventus was smart to bring in de Ligt as long-term cover for Chiellini as they rely on both he and the 32-year-old Bonucci in the starting lineup, with older players more at risk for injury. Behind de Ligt, the cover at center-back is extremely thin at Juventus. 21-year-old Merih Demiral made the matchday squad and rode the bench alongside de Ligt for Juve’s season opener, while 25-year-old Daniele Rugani is rumored to be headed out of the club after making just 15 appearances last season, although that could now change after Chiellini’s serious injury.
There could be some growing pains for de Ligt as he is thrust into the spotlight, but the Dutch kid is as experienced as they come for someone so young, having captained Ajax to the Champions League semifinals last season and seeing time with the senior international squad as well, already the owner of 15 international caps.