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It was bizarre scenes in the League Cup final between Chelsea and Manchester City at the Wembley Stadium in February 2019, as Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to leave the pitch when asked to be subbed off.
Kepa has feigned injury for a while with the game in extra time, and ahead of the penalty shootout, then Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri decided to bring on Willy Caballero for the Spanish goalkeeper. However, Kepa never left the pitch, with Sarri fuming on the touchline.
Kepa has now revealed what exactly happened on the day and how the incident was blown out of proportion.
Kepa wrote for The Player’s Tribune: “It was all a big misunderstanding’.
“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 O.K., 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 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.”
Kepa went on to reveal how the matter was resolved immediately at the club but it stayed long in the press.
He explained: “Inside the club it was no big deal. I had a chat with the boss, we talked about how we had each seen the situation, and we cleared the air. After that I got dropped for one game, but a week later I was back in the team.
“I remember playing a great game against Fulham, and that was it. A couple of months later we knocked Frankfurt out of the Europa League semifinals and I saved two penalties in the shootout. Internally, everything was fine again.
“But outside the club, it got out of control.
“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 O.K.. 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.
“But it is an example that not everything is what it seems from the outside.”