Italy’s Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini does not specifically remember welcoming Tottenham Hotspur’s England striker Harry Kane to international football with one of his crunching tackles but admits it may have happened.
Chiellini, one of Europe’s most uncompromising defenders, and Kane, a prolific scorer in the English Premier League, will cross swords again on Tuesday when Juve host Spurs in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
The two players previously faced each other when Italy hosted England in a friendly at the same Juventus stadium in Turin in March 2015, a match which saw Kane make his full international debut.
The game had barely begun when Kane was met with a Chiellini body check which the Tottenham player described in a pre-match news conference on Monday as a “very nice welcome to international football.”
Facing the media later, Chiellini’s memory failed him.
“Kane said I made a rough challenge on him once? I don’t remember, it could be the case… but it wasn’t on purpose.”
Despite his fearsome reputation on the pitch, Chiellini is regarded as a gentleman off it and he was generous in his praise of Kane.
“He’s an extraordinary forward as his statistics from the last year show,” he said. “He’s a complete forward who plays for the team. In my opinion he was already one of the best strikers and people were already talking about him then. I think I was a good judge.”
Chiellini said the match was not just a battle between him and Kane.
“It’s impossible for me to stop Kane on my own, the important thing is that Juventus stop Tottenham,” he said. “It would be simplistic to think that Tottenham is just about Kane.”