Now we’ve seen it all. Leonardo Bonucci, that icon of Juventus DNA, he who urged others to wash their mouths out before talking about the Bianconeri, the man who resisted the calls of Antonio Conte at Chelsea and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, one of the ever-presents in the six-year Scudetto run, has joined Milan. What’s more, this story went from seemingly ludicrous summer rumour to reality in around 48 hours. We can never again comfortably say that a transfer story is impossible, because we’ve already seen the most implausible situation come to life.
I have supported Milan for decades and people ask me why I’m not jumping for joy at this spending spree. Up until now, it has been because I am concerned that putting a lot of great players together does not necessarily make a team (see any Inter outfit in the last seven years for proof) and there doesn’t appear to be a huge amount of thought going into the shape of Vincenzo Montella’s side. The amount of money ploughed in also puts immense pressure on players, Coach and club, the kind that can lead to hasty decisions and constant tinkering (again, see Inter).
Why am I not celebrating Bonucci’s arrival? Mainly, I am in shock. Milanisti are accustomed to nasty surprises on the transfer market, not good ones. We tend to get someone several years past his prime who is available on loan or with a free transfer. When money is spent, it’s usually quite badly, on the likes of Jose Ernesto Sosa or Andrea Bertolacci.
Above all, I am stunned by Bonucci’s decision. Why leave the most successful side in Italy for one of their bitter rivals who have showered you in insults over the years? I always thought if he did quit Juve for a new challenge, it’d be in the Premier League or La Liga, somewhere he could really stretch his legs and teach everyone around him the art of defending. Milan just doesn’t make sense as a move for him. Aged 30, he is in his prime, and only getting better every year. His precision passing skills mean he could easily move further up the pitch later on for an Andrea Pirlo-esque role as deep-lying playmaker.
Bonucci is leaving all his certainties behind to embrace a new project that still doesn’t have a clear identity. It’s a massive risk to be taking and that may well be the biggest motivator of all. Staying at Juventus just to target the Champions League would’ve felt a little futile, as that is such a small part of the season. He can help instil a new mentality at Milan and become a leader, or rather THE leader, because at Juve there were so many strong voices that any clash felt like when Thor slammed his hammer on to Captain America’s shield – it’s a draw, but one that destroys everything around the two protagonists. Milan’s last captain was Riccardo Montolivo. I need say no more.
Quite clearly, the €42m price-tag also means Juventus wanted rid of their most important defender. They could've charged a Premier League club double that sum, but Bonucci evidently demanded the transfer. I do genuinely believe the rumours it was his agent who proposed the idea to Milan directors, because no other Serie A side would even consider asking for Bonucci. Poaching the best talent from the opposition is Juve's schtick.
If Montella also gets his star centre-forward, for example Andrea Belotti, will I then say that Milan are Scudetto favourites? No. At least, not yet. Next year it’s very possible, but over the summer so many teams have completely revamped or changed key figures, there is going to be a great deal of inconsistency, especially in the early months. Napoli have retained all their elements and are well-drilled in Maurizio Sarri’s tactics. I think Juve will miss Bonucci immensely and the murky circumstances behind his departure suggest serious tension in that locker room.