Kepa Arrizabalaga has insisted he did not defy Maurizio Sarri’s decision to substitute him in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final loss to Manchester City.
The 24-year-old goalkeeper’s number was shown on the fourth official’s board, with Willy Caballero primed to come on in his place, late in extra-time of the Wembley clash.
Kepa, who missed last Thursday’s win over Malmo with a hamstring problem, had already required treatment for an apparent bout of cramp, but waved the substitution away, with Sarri livid.
The Spain goalkeeper saved Leroy Sane’s penalty in the shootout, but City won 4-3 as Jorginho had his effort saved and David Luiz hit a post before Raheem Sterling scored the decisive kick.
“It was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss,” Kepa said.
“He thought I couldn’t continue, and – fundamentally – I was trying to say that physically I was fine.
“It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench, and they explained everything well.
“This was nothing to do with the problems I had this week, with (my hamstring) – it wasn’t that.”
International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules state a player can refuse to be substituted.
But former Chelsea captain John Terry had a strong message for Kepa.
“Once your number goes up you have to come off and show a bit of respect,” Terry said on Sky Sports.
Kepa admitted the images looked like he was defying Sarri, whose position as head coach remains in doubt.
Kepa added: “It wasn’t that I was refusing to be substituted, it was a way of trying to tell the bench that I was fine.
“It is not the best image. I have spoken with the boss. I think it was misunderstood.
“I understand that on television, on social media, they’re talking about this but I am here to explain it, to say that it wasn’t my intention to go against the manager.
“We have spoken now, and I was only trying to say I’m fine. He thought I wasn’t fine. It was in tense moments, with a lot happening.”
Kepa clung to the positives of the performance.
Kepa added: “I don’t think it has to be the major act of this final. I understand we played a good level against one of the best teams in the world.
“We were close to winning, obviously we’re sad that we didn’t, and I think the team needs to continue playing like this, because today we’ve shown we can compete against the best teams. Among the negatives, we have to take the positives.”
In a statement tweeted on Sunday night, the Spanish keeper insisted he has total respect for Sarri.
“I have full respect for the coach and his authority,” the statement read.