Leonardo Spinazzola reveals his tears when tearing the Achilles tendon were ‘not of pain, but of sadness,’ because he was convinced Italy would go on to win UEFA EURO 2020.
The left-back had won two Man of the Match awards in his four appearances when he suddenly pulled up during the quarter-final with Belgium.
He was inconsolable as he was stretchered off, although Roma teammate Bryan Cristante tried to reassure him.
“I knew we were going to go all the way, that’s why I was crying after the injury. It wasn’t pain, it was sadness and anger that I’d miss it,” Spinazzola told La Repubblica newspaper.
“I felt this sudden thump on my heel, so out of the corner of my eye, I tried to see which Belgian player had clipped my heel. When I saw there was nobody at all behind me, then Cristante ran up looking worried, that’s when I realised and crumbled to the ground.
“What I was thinking was ‘Why me, why now?’ I cried because of what I knew that I’d be missing out on. We all knew that we were getting to that Final. Winning or not is another matter, that depends on so much, but getting there we felt invincible.”
Spinazzola had surgery in Finland and then flew to London with the rest of the squad for the Final, where he joined in the celebrations hopping around with crutches.
“They came up the steps onto the plane and I was already there. I wouldn’t let them go! I’ve honestly never seen a team more relaxed preparing for a big game. We had dinner at the Tottenham training ground, then we sat around in this garden area and just started chatting.”
Spinazzola was first up to the podium to get his winners’ medal, sent by Giorgio Chiellini.
“Giorgio, our captain, told me to go up first. I wanted to sprint up there, but was also afraid of falling over and completely embarrassing myself in the stadium. It was marvellous afterwards, so many of the lads would carry me around, from Jorginho to De Rossi and Toloi. I’m pretty heavy, so that was not easy.”
Many have spoken about the unity in the Azzurri squad and Spinazzola confirms it’s all true.
“We are like a bunch of kids on a school trip. We play dumb pranks on each other, make fun, have playfights, but never a row in 45 days together. The Nazionale is the proof of what you can achieve when you have a bunch of fun lads, real friends who just want to enjoy themselves.”
Spinazzola will be out of action for seven to nine months after the Achilles tendon tear.
“A cruciate ligament tear changes your whole life, whereas with a tendon you just need to wait for it to calcify, like a thigh strain. In a week I can remove the stitches and then take it one step at a time in rehabilitation.
“If I am not back playing again in six months, I will go out there myself and see who tries to stop me.”