There’s always noise. When Antonio Conte announced he was leaving his role as coach of the Italy national team after the 2016 UEFA European Championship, he had already been linked to Chelsea, so it should come as no surprise that members of his Azzurri side are expected to join him at Stamford Bridge.
“The most I've followed him to is a coffee,” Leonardo Bonucci replied when asked at a press conference whether he would be tempted by a reunion with Conte in the Premier League. “I don't know what the boss will do, but I've signed a renewal with Juventus [until 2020], and I'm honestly only thinking about the Bianconeri.”
However, the defender did go on to admit he owed the former Juventus tactician a great deal after joining the Serie A giants back in 2010 and improving dramatically after the Italy boss was appointed 12 months later:
Conte is the coach who forced me to make that leap, ever since he arrived at Juventus. At the start we had some disagreements, because when I arrived in Turin I definitely wasn't in the best shape after a wedding and a honeymoon.
But I have to say, he taught me so much on a technical level. If today I'm one of the best in Europe, then a good part of that is down to the boss.
Bonucci can certainly be considered among the continent’s elite centre-backs, blossoming under Conte and continuing that development under his successor, Massimiliano Allegri. The 28-year-old has played 267 games for the Bianconeri, performing at a consistently high level in both three- and four-man defensive units.
Club management would have also breathed a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday, with an injury suffered on international duty being much less serious than first feared. Forced to leave the field during Italy's game with Germany, Bonucci seemed concerned about yet another noise when he spoke to Rai Sport shortly after the final whistle.
“I heard a crack, and I was in a bit of pain,” he said (h/t FourFourTwo). “I do not know exactly where I got hurt. It could be anything. We'll see what the tests say tomorrow [Wednesday] and what happens next.”
Fortunately for the Old Lady, the following day saw the club publish an official statement that revealed medical tests had “ruled out any muscle tears” and that Bonucci would "rest up for three days before easing back into the team’s training schedule."
A one-match suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards meant he was already set to miss Saturday’s meeting with Empoli, but Juventus expect him to be fully fit for their clash with AC Milan seven days later.
Having played in 29 Serie A matches and all eight of Juve’s Champions League fixtures, few players have been as important to their success as Bonucci, who has weighed in with two goals and an assist during 2015/16.
According to statistics on WhoScored.com, he leads Juventus with 4.1 clearances per game. His average of 62.9 passes per outing trails only Claudio Marchisio’s 67.5. Connecting with an impressive 87.1 per cent of those attempts, he has also made 2.5 interceptions and 0.9 tackles per game.
It is therefore little surprise to see him garner attention outside of Italy, with Pep Guardiola recently telling a press conference that Bonucci is “one of my favourite ever players” after seeing him in action against Bayern Munich.
“Obviously the appreciation of a coach like Guardiola is something to be proud of for us and the player,” club director Beppe Marotta told Mediaset Premium (h/t Football Italia) when asked about the comments.
“However, Juventus don’t let players go unless they want to leave,” he added. Bonucci’s aforementioned comments about his recent contract renewal certainly indicate that is not the case as he continues to be a central figure in their Scudetto push.
But there is always noise.