Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and Leonardo Bonucci reportedly met to discuss a transfer during the summer, but the Blues never followed up on their interest, and the defender eventually joined AC Milan.
That's according to Il Bianconero (h/t the Daily Star's David Wright), who reported Bonucci was Conte's primary choice to add to his defence after the two worked together at Juventus. The two had dinner in Turin, but Chelsea never made an official offer and went after AS Roma's Antonio Rudiger instead.
Bonucci wound up moving to Juventus' rivals Milan in a shock deal. Calciomercato.com's David Amoyal reported the Italy international preferred to stay in Serie A, with his son struggling with health problems.
The 30-year-old has never hidden his admiration for Conte, with whom he worked both in Turin and with the national team. Per Wright, he told Tencent Sport the former midfielder was his favourite ever boss:
"I have been coached by some great coaches.
"Each one of them has given me something but the best one and the manager that has given me the most is Conte.
“"I could work every day with him and I have improved as a player and as a human being."
While Chelsea fans were furious with the club for failing to land Bonucci after years of transfer speculation, things have so far worked out in favour of the Blues. Rudiger has been very solid since his move to Stamford Bridge and is several years younger than the Italian.
Things haven't gone so smoothly for Bonucci at Milan. No longer flanked by seasoned veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, the former Bari man has struggled with positioning and hasn't been the great leader the Rossoneri expected him to be.
Per Goal.com's Solace Chukwu, there haven't been any winners in the deal so far:
BeIN Sports' Matteo Bonetti even believed his dreadful form should have resulted in a spot on the bench:
One has to wonder whether the transition to a new club and system would have been easier at Chelsea. While Bonucci is not familiar with the Premier League, Conte knows him better than just about any manager in the world―he likely would have put him in a much better position to succeed.
Bonucci is unlikely to leave Milan anytime soon, unless he fails to turn his form around in the Italian fashion capital and decides he needs a fresh start.