Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri insists his astonishing League Cup final row with goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was a “big misunderstanding”.
Sarri was furious when Kepa refused to be substituted after needing treatment in the closing stages of extra-time against Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday.
Chelsea eventually lost 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw, but it was Kepa’s rebellious behaviour and Sarri’s raging response on the touchline that stole the headlines.
However, speaking after the match, Sarri appeared to back-track as he suggested it was a communication issue that caused the problem.
“In that situation, there was a big misunderstanding,” Sarri said.
“I understood there was a problem and we needed a change. I didn’t find out until the doctor arrived to the bench after a few minutes.
“It was a big misunderstanding. I understood the goalkeeper had cramp and for me he was unable to go to penalties but the problem was not cramp so he was able to go to penalties.”
Sarri had been incandescent with rage when 24-year-old Kepa, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, appeared to publicly challenge his authority.
He repeatedly gestured at Kepa to come off, then began screaming towards his staff before finally stomping down the tunnel.
He quickly returned to resume his post, but didn’t speak to Kepa before the shoot-out and had to be restrained from confronting him by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.
Asked why he walked down the tunnel, Sarri said: “I needed only to return to be quiet.
“I think as I say, the goalkeeper understood that I asked for a change for his physical problem. He said, ‘I haven’t got a physical problem’, so he was right I think.”
Some pundits and fans called for Kepa to be sacked immediately after the incident.
But, quizzed on whether Kepa was guilty of ignoring instructions, Sarri said: “I have to talk with him but only to clarify because now I have understood very well the situation.