With Euro 2012 rapidly approaching, we here at JuventiKnows are profiling the different Juventus players participating in the summer tournament. This year, seven of our Scudetto winners are going to Poland and Ukraine as part of Cesare Prandelli’s Italian national side as the coach – himself a former midfielder for the Bianconeri – called up – Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio,Andrea Barzagli, Emanuele Giaccherini and today’s featured star Leonardo Bonucci.
Birthplace and Birthday:
Viterbo, May 1 1987
Claudio Zuliani calls him ‘Bonnie’… hardly the most original moniker, but who are we to argue with the great man?
Estimated Market Value:
€13.500.000 (via Transfermarkt.it)
Title, Year, (Club)
Primavera Cup 2006 (Inter)
Campionato Primavera 2007 (Inter)
Serie A 2011-12 (Juventus)
(He also has a medal for the 2005-06 Scudetto but you can’t seriously expect us to list that here!)
Team Supported Growing Up:
He says Juventus, we’re not buying it!
Level of Fame:
Perhaps only truly known among regular Serie A watchers but a strong performance at Euro 2012, coupled with Juve’s return to the Champion’s League next term, could change all that.
An out-going, confident player who acts the same way both on and off the pitch. This probably contributed to his struggles, detailed further along in this profile, but is almost certainly at the heart of his positive attributes.
His passing – for which he is often ridiculously chastised – has become a brilliant weapon for the side, particularly when deployed as part of a back three. His ability to step into midfield and provide another creative option gives opponents a real problem as they often have no player free to pick him up and, as his impressive 88.4% completion rate shows, he really is no slouch in this department. He also made 5.8 accurate long balls per game, second only to Pirlo’s 11.2 and found himself far enough forward to make five accurate through-balls from five attempts. He has also learned when to pass to ball out calmly – and when to just hit it clear – as he definitely had a tendency to overplay prior to the second half of this season.
Bonucci also led the team in blocked shots and, tellingly, ‘offsides won’ which sounds a strange stat but researching a little further shows it is often a category that the leader of a defence comes top of. Men like Thiago Silva, Matías Silvestre, Lucio and Nicola Legrottaglie all came top for their respective club’s andthe 25 year old did the same for Juventus. The leadership qualities of Chiellini have been discussed at length both on the site and the podcast while Andrea Barzagli has always been a quiet player. The former Palermo man has evolved somewhat since arriving in Turin but it is Bonucci, from his position in the middle of Conte’s back three, who is the communicator and decision maker for this defence.
Concentration. Bonucci has clearly found the transition from a Provincial side to a truly big club difficult. Mistakes that would rarely be noticed at Bari become a national pastime when wearing Bianconeri and that his debut season came when the club had serious defensive issues hardly helped. Mistakes which led to conceding goals have become far less frequent under Antonio Conte and he is beginning to look like the confident, assured and accomplished defender his potential clearly showed
Status on Club Team:
Third choice central defender behind Chiellini and Barzagli. The arrival of the latter from Wolfsburg took away Bonucci’s guaranteed starting slot for which he had gone virtually unchallenged the previous season. However he is the youngest of the three by some distance and will undoubtedly a cornerstone of the Bianconeri defence for years to come with the talent to become comfortably the best Italian defender of his generation.
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2011-2012 Club Season:
Much as we saw with Alessandro Matri after the signing of Marco Borriello, the loss of his clear first choice status seemed to dent the player’s psyche. Then, when he was called upon as Chiellini was shifted to left-back, he seemed over-eager to impress and made those key errors mentioned earlier. Bonucci fought back well from those problems and his form as the season drew to a close meant Conte could use the 3-5-2 with even greater confidence and he also chipped in with two goals, both of which were crucial in wins over Fiorentina and Palermo.
Status in National Team:
Third choice central defender behind Chiellini and Barzagli (there’s a pattern emerging here you’ll notice.) Last season his only real challenger for a slot alongside Chiellini was Andrea Ranocchia who went from a nightmare struggle for form and confidence at Genoa to, well, a nightmare struggle for form and confidence at Inter. That has continued this term but the displays of Barzagli at Juventus have seen him supplant his club-mate in Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri set up to the point he was Captain for a period in the recent friendly against Russia.
Expected Performance for National Team:
Talk continues that Italy may yet follow Conte and play with a back three, in which case he could become a key protagonist as his playmaking and leadership skills would perhaps be called upon even more profoundly than they have at club level. However it still seems unlikely and Bonucci will therefore be asked to sit patiently on the bench and await his chance, much as Barzagli did to such great effect the last time Italy went into a tournament with a scandal hanging over the team!
He made his Inter debut in November 2006 as a late substitute for everyone’s favourite Oompa Loompa Fabio Grosso.
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In one word: