We’ve witnessed some extremely awkward transfers this summer. But perhaps, none matches Leonardo Bonucci’s shocking switch from Juventus to AC Milan. We delve deeper into exactly why he decided to move to a direct rival.
Today’s game isn’t blessed with too many quality centre-backs, however, Bonucci happens to be among that rare breed. An all-rounder in every aspect, who’s stock has soared since he moved to Turin in 2010. The colossal 30-year-old is simply the best at what he does; flaunting unrivalled technique, passing range, positional sense as well as solid tackling, and an exceptional ability to read games.
Now that’s not all. Bonucci is equally a tough, obstinate and resilient character anywhere he finds himself. He once attacked a fully-armed man for trying to steal from him in the presence of his wife and three-month-old son. With those sort of traits, you’d expect the player to remain with the Old Lady forever or worst case scenario, command a fortune from potential suitors.
But surprisingly, none of that happened. Milan effortlessly landed the player, something which seemed more like science fiction at first. Dealing with a rival team, you’d hoped for some sort of tortuous negotiations; but on the contrary, it was a smooth and speedy sale. To add to that, the Rossoneri managed to land the player for just £35.23 million, which when considered and compared to the fees lavished on the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones and David Luiz in recent times, then it seemingly becomes an even bigger shock.
So where did it all go wrong between Juve and their talisman?
Bonucci’s exit could be traced back to February when the player was involved in a heated exchange with coach Maximiliano Allegri. The pair bickered throughout the 4-1 win over Palermo, prompting the tactician to drop the 30-year-old for the club’s subsequent game. On the surface, all seemed well, but beneath the animosity was still rumbling, reportedly erupting at halftime in the Champions League final, when the defender criticised Andrea Barzagli for his part in Real Madrid’s opening goal and also attacked Paulo Dybala.
For the money?
Bonucci’s contract runs until 2021, so Juve was under no pressure whatsoever to sell. But reports suggest the player felt slightly undermined by Allegri, hence desperately sought a move away from Turin. With the knowledge of what an exit from Italy could do his chances with the Azzurri, the 30-year-old just couldn’t pass up Milan. Well, perhaps the terms of the contract, on its own, played a bigger role. Bonucci will reportedly earn €6.5m net plus bonuses per season – thus making him the best paid Italian in the league.
Or the Milan project?
Another angle to this whole deal could likely be the prospect of trying something new in an entirely different environment similar to Andrea Pirlo’s move from Milan to Juve in 2011. Bonucci has seen it all with the Old Lady; six Scudettos and three Coppa Italias in seven years is certainly no joke. So why not try elsewhere? Milan’s new owners are clearly stockpiling the club with new recruits, with the aim of restoring the lost glory.
But there’s a little bit more. Vicenzo Montella desperately craved the arrival of an iconic figure to champion the new era in the capacity of the skipper. That perhaps was an extra incentive for Bonucci, promoted from third-choice at Juve to undisputed leader in Milan.
Verdict: After falling out of favour at Juve, Milan obviously presents a fresh challenge to Bonucci. But clearly, the astronomical wage and his hunger for something new were both the motivating factor.