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Wednesday February 11 2015
Bonucci a Bianconeri leader

Once prone to lapses, Leonardo Bonucci has emerged as Juventus’ defensive leader, writes Luca Cetta.

More than anything else to come from Juventus’ win over Milan, ‘perspective’ was front and centre. The prolonged debate surrounding Carlos Tevez opening goal aside, that word can also be used in reference to Juve central defender Leonardo Bonucci.

As part of the pre-Antonio Conte struggles, Bonucci was viewed in some quarters as another transfer blunder. Fast forward to the present day and the perspective is one of a reliable presence in the Bianconeri defence. Goal celebration aside, the Viterbo native has not put much of a foot wrong this season.

When Conte settled on his back three in 2012, Bonucci became a key component as the central figure thanks to his impeccable anticipation and ability as a playmaker. Outside a 3-5-2 Bonucci was seen to struggle. It wasn’t exactly a groundless theory. Leo looked at home with a teammate on either side, while at international level his defensive work in a back four was decidedly shaky.

This season is testament to what Bonucci can do in either system. Andrea Barzagli may be nicknamed ‘the Rock’, but Bonucci is the foundation on which Massimiliano Allegri builds his defence.

No Juve player has made more Serie A starts than his 21, a number matched only by Gianluigi Buffon. In addition are six Champions League starts, even if he’s not been as assured on the continent as in Serie A. As Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Tuesday, factor in a Coppa Italia and Super Cup appearance and he has played a total of 2640 minutes – the pink paper dubbing Bonucci the ‘man of steel’. He’s missed just two matches – one suspended, one rested.

Allegri may have dismissed utilising a back four “until I have the personnel to do it,” but even without Barzagli the shift was made and the Turin side have hardly missed a beat. They have conceded more goals – six to three in Serie A – but it’s their best defensive record since 1985-86 and arguably the catalyst for improvements further afield. “We are often faced with opponents one on one,” Bonucci explained, “But Juve have to accept it, because it offers the possibility for those playing in attack to be more effective.”

The defender says he is happy with either system. “I am happy in any system and try to put myself to the service of the team. Obviously with three I can read the situations better, but I have shown over the years I can do well with four too.”

The 27-year-old has coped with changing personnel. Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna started the season alongside Bonucci but both would succumb to injury. Giorgio Chiellini has not enjoyed a productive campaign and Barzagli hasn’t played all season. The one constant has been Bonucci.

Those momentary lapses, the loose pass deriving out of self confidence, which plagued Bonucci’s first seasons at Vinovo, have slowly dissipated. The conviction in his abilities makes the No 19 pivotal and has seen him develop into a leader. This reliability and added maturity will be pleasing for Allegri.

The Italian international has proven handy in attack too, scoring 11 times in 202 appearances. What’s most notable is his timing, the ability to score a big goal. Five have been decisive for a result, another two opening the scoring. On Saturday Bonucci restored Juve’s lead over Milan for his second goal of the season, the other the winner against Roma.

With Barzagli reportedly close to returning there will be greater competition for spots in the Old Lady’s defence. Yet given his performances this term, it’s hard to imagine Bonucci on the outer.

Have your say...
Are you kidding me right now, people? Bonucci has been one of our best performers and best defenders in Serie A this year. Stop with the nonsense arguments, no one is saying he's Maldini but he's been one of the best this year.
on the 19th February, 2015 at 5:34pm
Bonucci rolling back the years after the game vs Cesena. The inept and totally awkward performances I've grown to accept and expect from him. Famous Bonuccisms include, swivel back leg tackles resulting in free kicks, going for man instead of ball, ducking from headers, turning his body away from shots that bounce off his swivel back leg to score, yelling at teammates when he is at fault. I hope there are no more Bonucci praising articles. He is better than Rannochia which isn't praise.
on the 15th February, 2015 at 10:25pm
to everyone on the "Bonucci Bitching Bombardment wagon", the article is about his consistency and good form this season, No one's implying he's a NESTA OR A MALDINI that's all it is. SO DOWN WITH THE DAGGERS PEOPLE.......He's a late bloomer "GOSH THE JEALOUSY IS ENDLESS". BTW SERIA A IS STILL ONE OF THE TOP 3 LEAGUES IN THE WORLD..............
on the 14th February, 2015 at 8:17pm
If you want a laugh at Juve expense as you cant on the pitch cause they are the best...just look at their mock up kits for next season lol!! Adidas have ruined them the home doesn't even have stripes!! the pink one shown in the picture with the article is woeful!!
on the 13th February, 2015 at 9:18am
Yes, like it or not, he is among the best CB in italy nowadays, if he is not good enough for nazionale.. then who? Ranocchia? Bonera? Zaccardo? Barza-Bonu-Chiel, top 3 Juve defenders and once again Juve contributed much to nazionale defence. Next potential? maybe Rugani.
on the 13th February, 2015 at 5:46am
I too highly critical of him during the Conte early days, but we must give the player his due, as he has filled in admirably during Barzagli injury and has also played with many different players by his side, yes not one of Italy's greats but has matured into a solid performer for Juve and Italy as I'm sure many would never imagine him as one of Juve's leaders but I would have to agree that he shows up for the team and has been their iron man in the face of many injuries surrounding him
on the 13th February, 2015 at 3:57am
This would have been more laughable up to the 2013/2014 season. Bonucci was absolutely awful for the Conte years. He obviously has a good agent to keep him starting for Juve and Italy. That being said, he isn't as calamitous this 2014 /2015 season but in no way should he deserve anything more than a most improved mention. This season is an anomaly. He has actually covered for Chiellinis mistakes this year.. Whereas Without Barzagli and Chiellini in the previous campaigns Bonucci would be out.
on the 12th February, 2015 at 10:28pm
He is not worthy of the national team - I agree with that. But Serie A does not have many good Italian central defendrs any way - so he is the only decent option available at the moment. By current Serie A standards he is very good at what he does. But, on a global scale he is average. He is easily exposed against top players. He tends to make schoolboy errors in important matches. Porto's header goal in the Europa league semis was a direct result of his very poor body check.
on the 12th February, 2015 at 11:33am
Even as a Juvetini I think his praise is a little deluded. Sure hes been solid AT TIMES, but equally hes made some absolute howlers. During Contes era how many times did he think himself as an attacking midfielder only to loose the ball and leave us exposed?!? Many!! I echo the other comments, let him come up against a world class player before rating him that highly. Andrea and Gorgio can handle WC players,bonucci always looks vulnerable and out of the 3 is the one that wil loose the ball
on the 12th February, 2015 at 10:49am
is this a joke or what? compare to all italian legend in centre back position bonucci is nothing.. his an average player.. go home, you are drunk..
on the 12th February, 2015 at 4:07am
Annoys me no end and great at pointing fingers at others for Italy's World Cup failure. Like many of the senatori I lost a lot of respect for him this summer. Plus his goal celebration is really annoying. Still shows what can happen to an average player when given confidence.
on the 12th February, 2015 at 12:26am
don't get carried away guys,, i like bonucci and love juve, but lets call a spade a spade he's is an average defender who is only in that back line because he comfortable with the ball at his feet,, when pirlo is being smothered in a game the plays come from bonucci, as a defender tho, i agree with mez, put some quality against him, come on pple are we really rating him alongside nesta thuram cannavaro sumuel(in his day!!) silva lucio ferrara?? truth is we sadly don't have real defenders anymore
on the 11th February, 2015 at 8:22pm
Leonardo Bonucci has been superb - one area Juve don't need to strengthen in (except finding a successor to Buffon) is defence. Chiellini's been a rock, but has needed reliable team mates alongside - which as stated by Luca Cetta they haven't always been. Stephan Lichtsteiner along with Martin Caceres and Angelo Ogbonna have improved and with them conceding less and the awesome strikeforce and creativity upfront, Juve are looking strong for a possible treble or double this season!

Forza Juve !
on the 11th February, 2015 at 6:33pm
He scores fluke goals once in a while. I wouldn't even start him on the national team. The amount of times I've seen him get burnt is countless. I'll never forget that euro 2012 final were him and barzagli got split open like the red sea against Spain. At the world cup he was shaky too. Nothing more than an average player.
on the 11th February, 2015 at 3:41pm
tbh, he has not come up against any greats yet. Only when he can successfully mark the likes of Ronaldo,Suarez, Cavani & Messi - can he then be called a great. A very good defender in Serie A though.
on the 11th February, 2015 at 3:00pm
Average player who gets away with more than his fair share of dirty deeds (like his teammate Chiellini) for the simple fact of playing for a team who can get away with butchering their opponents with no punishment.
on the 11th February, 2015 at 2:23pm
Bonucci not only emerged as the leader of Juventus defense line, but also as a top class defender. It's really hard to find another as good centre-back in Serie A as Leonardo. Fantastic progress.
on the 11th February, 2015 at 12:54pm

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