Wednesday April 11 2012
The redemption of Bonucci

Leonardo Bonucci’s form has risen in recent weeks. Luca Cetta looks at the player Juventini have had trouble getting behind.

As Leonardo Bonucci climbed highest to nod in Andrea Pirlo’s corner early in the second half at the Stadio Renzo Barbera on Saturday, it allowed Juventus to move into first place on the Serie A ladder and provided the zenith to a run of form which has offered the maligned defender a ticket to redemption.

Juve knew they needed a win in Palermo in order to overtake Milan and Bonucci alleviated Bianconeri nerves with his well-taken near-post header. More than the crucial goal, he was superb at the other end as he and cohorts Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli cut-out nearly all of Palermo’s attacking thrusts. Bonucci’s five tackles were a team high, whilst his interceptions and use of the ball as he strode out of defence were also a feature.

Bonucci has recovered from a sending off at Bologna in early March which initially provided fuel for his doubters. Since his return the ex-Bari defender has looked the part, aiding Juve in their 523-minute streak without conceding a goal as they have played and defeated rivals Fiorentina, Inter and Napoli.

Before that red card, Bonucci’s performances ranged from superb to mediocre. His good work would be undone by nerves or a lack of concentration, causing needless errors to be committed. His wayward pass which gave Antonio Nocerino possession and Milan the lead in the huge February showdown elicited collective groans, as did the attempt to clear the ball on the line a week later against Chievo as they equalised – even if not entirely his fault. The detractors were in full voice even earlier as he struggled versus Napoli and Cagliari.

Signed from Bari for €15.5 million before the start of 2010-11, Bonucci showed promise but his baptism of fire alongside Chiellini came during a difficult campaign in Turin as Juve’s central defensive pair were exposed time and again by weaknesses out wide. The relationship between player and club could have been over after just one season.

Luciano Spalletti and Zenit St Petersburg lurked during the summer transfer window, but Antonio Conte thought Bonucci an essential part of his squad and the player also rejected the move. “I was approached by Zenit, but staying in Turin was always my preferred option. Last year I joined Juventus and a new project, and on the eve of a very important season, I would have regretted not being able to continue my contribution.” Now, the club have extended Bonucci’s contract until 2017, underlining his long-term importance.

This season Bonucci’s full range of abilities have been on show, notably his anticipation and reading of the play, as well as his tackling. He is comfortable with the ball, either utilising the central midfielders ahead of him or bringing the wide men into play with long, searching passes. Plus, his versatility aids Conte as he can be deployed in either a marking role in a two-man central defence or a free role in a three-man backline.

With Euro 2012 on the horizon, Bonucci – who featured in five qualifying matches and scored once – is playing himself into form at the right time. Being part of Serie A’s best defence alongside fellow Italian international teammates will help his cause in booking a spot for Poland and Ukraine. For now Bonucci – still only 24 – will look to continue down his current path, one he notes was helped by those who had faith. “I would like to thank all those who have believed in me, from the President to the Coach, including the directors and my teammates.”

Have your say...
Bonucci is getting better and better with every game he plays. His performance against Napoli was world class. I think his partnership with the magnificent Andrea Barzagli, when Chiellini was a left back, has been the making of him. Now when Juve play with a three at the back, Bonucci is the man in the middle and in that position he has shut out some of the best stikers in Italy. If Italy use those three defenders in front of Buffon at Euro 2012, they would be virtually unbeatable. Forza Juve!
on the 13th April, 2012 at 11:57pm
@calciopauly.... "you'll hear of the big teams chasing?" what is juventus? wigan?
on the 13th April, 2012 at 2:07am
Bonucci has never been a bad player. The criticism he received for making one mistake is absurd. He might not be world class, but he is good enough to be a back up defender at any club in the world. He'll be part of the Italy squad- in fact just about every Italian player at Juventus should be in the Italy squad.
on the 13th April, 2012 at 12:17am
Most of us Juventini appreciate we need to buy quality not average players...Its not lack of respect, more truth. Glad some posters are not on our transfer staff.
on the 12th April, 2012 at 12:39pm
Mustafa has foresight, like some of the others who haven't written Leo off. Bonucci's stellar season at Bari wasn't a fluke. Experience and Confidence gets easily challenged with youth, as he grows he'll become a solid cback that you'll hear of the big teams chasing!
on the 11th April, 2012 at 8:03pm
Wow. That is incredibly narrow-minded. Just cos somebody likes a player you don't, he shouldn't support the same team as you? I'm glad the majority of Juve fans are more respectful.

As I've said before, Bradley wouldn't be first choice, especially seeing as we have 3 amazing first chioce midfielders in MVP. Just a backup.

By the way, I also like Parolo and Cana as backups for our midfield. Should I go support Cesena and Lazio instead? I think I'm allowed to appreciate players from other teams.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 5:40pm
After a few missteps, Bonucci has greatly doubt he should make the Euro 12 squad, and even be a starter. We dont need an aging, injury prone Nesta (maybe 5 years ago), and this team certainly doesnt need an inconsistent, weak player like Torres..... Serie A defenses would eat him up !!
on the 11th April, 2012 at 4:08pm
Never said we 'need' Bradley. Just said he's cheap and underrated. Far better backup than Padoin. Why waste money on someone like Meireles who would still be a backup when the money can go to getting a world class centre forward. If you can see anyone else who wouldnt require so much money, suggest him, please? In an ideal world where we could spend as much money as possible, Nainggolan would be nice. But we dont have that much and Montolivo seems to be going to Milan so why not?
on the 11th April, 2012 at 3:55pm
Its almost pointless putting anything truthful on here. It just gets moderated out before being posted, so its almost a waste of time. And Im not talking about anything offensive swearing either... ADP must stay, but wont. Nesta, keep old legs away.. Bradley fans should support Chievo if they rate him so highly..Not in a million juve. lol..
on the 11th April, 2012 at 3:19pm
Just got too correct a comment here, Nesta have had 23 apperences for milan this seasson(this is the fact) also at the age of 37 he is among the best deffenders in the world, while bunucci is good vs serieA teams, Nesta has proven time and time again that he is the real deal, look at all the games vs barca this seasson, they couldn't get the best of him, only a reffere error let them past him. And nesta have won alot of titles, bunncui got a long mountin to climbe to be considered equal.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 3:18pm
Nesta has only managed something like 11 appearances this season and he is 36!!! Although super talented, he is not for us. We are letting ADP go remember because he is 37..... It would be ridiculous to let our captain, a true club legend go, to bring in another veteran who has had an injury plagued season.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:45pm
Michael Bradley hahahahha imagine him there at Juve!! hahahah
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:42pm
The guy has the skill and technique. Glad to see him perform especially after coming in as one of the more expensive signings over the past two years. Kudos to Conte to keep playing him and not bench him like Ranieri benched Criscito.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:38pm
At Zish. Some good points... However "we need to buy Michael Bradley". We are past the days of having to buy average players...Class is needed.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:28pm
The jury is still IMO. 6 or 7 decent games does not prove his long term class. He is not in Chiellini's league. But can be good. He's got to consistently show he's capable of NOT loosing concentration. He can only do this by continuing playing well into the first half of next season IMO. Promise but not yet matured....
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:24pm
If we bring in Nesta then he will teach Bonucci some valuable lessons!
Forza Juve!!!
on the 11th April, 2012 at 2:10pm
I am willing to admit that I was amongst his detractors. His form now is brilliant and I hope he continues, but in a back four he cannot be given space ahead of Barzagli yet, since Barzagli's been our best player alongside Pirlo this season.

As for summer signings, we need to strengthen the wings and some depth for midfield. Padoin is not good enough even as a back-up. Marrone should stay, but I dont think we should get Nainggolan. Michael Bradley please. He'll be cheap and he's underrated.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 1:39pm
Tyipically Juve fans dont forgive but im sure Ibra isnt bothered he is just looking at his medals over the few years, compared to Juve's he is winning on that front, although I think Juve wont go unbeaten all year I think they hve a great chance of winning the title as Conte has been great. In terms of strengh for next season if they win the title they only need a slight adjustment one forward to replace Borriello they seem strong everywhere else Nesta would be great back up too.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 1:21pm
Bonucci and De Ceglie have grown leaps and bounds under Conte. They has so much room for growth, and in time and under Conte's leadership, they could be amazing.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 1:13pm
@ Martin L - you can't be serious! Should have tried to re-sign Ibrahimovic two years ago?? After the way he betrayed us by demanding a transfer to Inter after calciopoli and leaving for a figure that was just pittance? No forgiveness will EVER be granted to Ibrahimovic by us juventini, absolutely no chance in hell. Ibra may be a great player, but there's no room in the Juve squad for any mercenaries thank you very much. Same policy applies for any proposals regarding signing Carlos Tevez.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 12:24pm
on the 11th April, 2012 at 11:45am
The depth of the defence needs expanding because if injuries were to hit, Juve dont have much back up for the back line.

Also agree that Juventus need a real hitman upfront! We should have battled Milan harder to sign Ibrahimovic 2 summers ago.

I think Juve should now target Higuain and especially Robben...

Keep it up Juve!!
on the 11th April, 2012 at 11:01am
I still say Bonucci got loads of room for improvement.

@Mikkel - Torres ? you sure ? or is that an April's fools joke :D

Right now he's still shooting blanks for Chelsea & given the history of Spanish players in Serie A, I wouldn't want him playing for Juventus
on the 11th April, 2012 at 10:59am
What Juvntus now need is not new midfielders but a solid goalscorer. I suggest Torres, Gotze, Cavani, Higuain, Neymar or Aguero.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 10:38am
.....Keep your foot on the gas and keep it !!

Forza Juve!
on the 11th April, 2012 at 10:26am
Bonucci is a defender with quality. All he lacks is the experience factor. He will become one of the greatest.
on the 11th April, 2012 at 10:13am

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