Sunday April 9 2017
Bonucci: 'I almost quit football'

Leonardo Bonucci discussed his style, Juventus tactical changes from Antonio Conte to Max Allegri and wanting to quit when his son was ill.

The defender sat down with Spanish newspaper El Pais ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final with Barcelona. You can read the rest of the interview here.

Bonucci has increasingly become a key figure in starting moves from the back, especially after Andrea Pirlo left.

“Here people describe me as a midfielder who is ‘borrowed’ by the defence. I have always played that way and probably always will, although sometimes I think there can be too many horizontal passes.

“Having the ball and playing it means the possibility of defending with a higher line, although that can also mean risks.

“Over the years I have matured. At first I preferred to make a good pass and even loved pushing forward to score goals, but at Juve, where the defensive movements are very important, I’ve improved my skills.

“Now if I make a decisive tackle or interception to prevent a goal, it is a really satisfying moment. With Allegri we tend to alternate the short passes with more direct long balls, so I am happy to vary the different elements of my game.”

Conte played with the 3-5-2 system, but Allegri has transformed the Bianconeri into a 4-2-3-1.

“Of course there are differences. If you have the ball at your feet, it can become more dangerous, as if you get the pass wrong then it’s easier to recover with three at the back rather than four.

“Having said that, three years ago – although people might not remember it like that – we far more regularly had to deal with dangerous one-on-one situations and sometimes up to 50 metres of empty pitch behind the defence. Those were critical situations and we don’t see as many of them now.”

Bonucci took some time out earlier this season to spend time with his family, as his infant son Matteo was struggling with a serious illness.

“For three or four months, my head was just not in the right place. It’s the head that gets the legs moving. For around 15 days after the surgery, until I started to see him improving, I was just not interested in training or anything to do with football.

“I’ve always hated hospitals and tried to avoid them, but at that time I had to be there and I was really struggling to be calm. Matteo is much better now and our family feels more united than ever.

“This morning, he slept in our bed and he woke up with a smile. You realise those are the greatest victories.”

Although Bonucci took a few days off, he never revealed that he felt ready to walk away from the sport.

“Yes, I thought about quitting. Football was just not my priority at that moment. You see your son with so much to live for, he’s asking you so many questions and why this is happening to him… and I had no answers.

“Priorities change at those times. Now I tell myself that I am lucky. Everything I have done has been from the heart.”

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