Can Juventus Realistically Keep Hold of Leonardo Bonucci?

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistApril 11, 2016

Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci celebrates past his teammate goalkeeper Neto after scoring decisive goal that gave his team a 5-2 win over Inter Milan,  a penalty shootout during the Italian Cup second leg semifinal soccer match, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Since late October, Juventus have been on an incredible run of form that has seen them catapulted back into contention for the Serie A title. While the likes of Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata have rightly been praised for their role in that transformation, there is little doubt that the defence has also played a major role.

At the forefront of that effort has been Leonardo Bonucci, the ball-playing central defender usually deployed in the middle of coach Massimiliano Allegri’s three-man defence. While a raft of injuries has seen the rest of the back line in a constant state of flux, the 28-year-old has been almost an ever-present figure.

The Italy international is often the starting point for Bianconeri attacks, with WhoScored.com showing that he leads the side with a total of almost 1,900 passes in 2015/16. That figure is over 300 higher than the second-placed member of the squad, while he connects with an impressive 87.1 percent of those attempts.

Bonucci has also netted some key goals against Hellas Verona and Inter in Serie A, as well as scoring the decisive strike in his side’s Coppa Italia penalty shootout victory against the Nerazzurri to seal Juve’s date with Milan in the final of that competition.

Yet it has been his defensive contribution that has most caught the eye with figures courtesy of WhoScored showing he has averaged a respectable 0.9 tackles, 2.5 interceptions and 4.4 clearances per game while winning 1.6 headed duels per game.

TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 13:  Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus FC embraces his team-mate Leonardo Bonucci during the Serie A match betweeen Juventus FC and ACF Fiorentina at Juventus Arena on December 13, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Im
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

That recently helped the Bianconeri register 10-consecutive clean sheets—a new Serie A record—and have seen the defender draw both praise and attention from a number of top coaches along the way.

After his Bayern Munich side eliminated Juventus from the Champions League last month, Pep Guardiola felt prompted to tell reporters at his post-match press conference that Bonucci is “one of my favourite ever players.”

It was a comment that led to Pete Jenson for the Mail on Sunday reporting the coach had asked Manchester City to target Bonucci ready for when he takes over this summer, while Sam Wallace of the Telegraph believes Chelsea also want the Italy international.

That would see him reunited with Azzurri boss Antonio Conte, but Bonucci insisted at a recent press conference that “the most I’ve followed him to is a coffee” before praising the impact the coach has had on his career:

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.

While that has led to speculation the Old Lady may lose him this summer, Bonucci denied any ambition to leave Turin as he went on to say “I’ve signed a renewal with Juventus [until 2020], and I’m honestly only thinking about the Bianconeri.”

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Juventus FC coach Massimiliano Allegri speaks to  his player Leonardo Bonucci during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Juventus and Borussia Dortmund at Juventus Arena on February 24, 2015 in Turin, Italy.  (
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

So while speculation rages that the former Bari man may move on, the club themselves agree there is no reason to panic, director general Beppe Marotta explaining their stance in an interview with Mediaset Premium.

“We only just renewed Bonucci’s contract over the summer, he is very fond of us and there’s no particular reason for his departure,” he said (h/t Football Italia). “Obviously the appreciation of a coach like Guardiola is something to be proud of for us and the player.”

Coach Massimiliano Allegri also told a press conference that “Bonucci is an important and extraordinary player,” and—as the cornerstone of their vaunted defence—he is one man Juventus have no intention of letting go.