Giorgio Chiellini says he ‘melted’ at the sight of Kalidou Koulibaly's face after the Napoli defender scored a stoppage-time own goal against Juventus this season.
With the scores tied at 3-3 in the 92nd minute, the Senegal defender misjudged a clearance from a free-kick, volleying spectacularly into his own top corner.
Napoli had fought back from 3-0 down to claim what looked like a crucial point before the late intervention from Koulibaly, a regular star performer for his side.
Chiellini missed the game due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury but made his way onto the pitch on crutches to console his fellow defender after full-time.
“I think back to our embrace on the Allianz Stadium pitch after his own goal on August 31,” Chiellini writes in an upcoming autobiography, as revealed by Tuttosport.
“The way I am, that gesture of mine almost displeased me; perhaps it would have been better to hug him in the locker room and keep this moment just between us.
“But it happened spontaneously. I looked for Kalidou, going to him on crutches.
“The night before, he sent me a ‘good luck’ message. With him, I have always had a wonderful relationship.
“Such a strong player, such a good person and in the 92nd minute of a crucial game, he makes a mistake like that!
“Seeing the look on his face melted me. I felt I had to say a few words of comfort, nothing more: ‘You are the best, everyone makes mistakes, keep on working the way you do and everything will pass’.
Chiellini also revealed he and Koulibaly were in regular contact when the Italian was ruled out for six months with his cruciate ligament injury.
The 35-year-old admitted he was surprised by some of the players who reached out to him.
“Of course I suffered, like everyone else, but it was also beautiful,” he wrote.
“Everyone called me, starting with my friends. I must have read hundreds of messages, some of them I was expecting, others less, others not at all.
“I was very pleased to read Javier Zanetti's, I hadn’t heard from him before. Another one I didn't expect was Pepe Reina, the former Napoli goalkeeper, who sent some very nice words.
“Other Napoli players called, for example [Lorenzo] Insigne and Koulibaly, but I already had a relationship with them, which wasn’t the case with Reina.
“I respect Koulibaly a lot and we got to talk to each other, to understand what kind of person he is.”