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Leonardo Bonucci struggling with life as an ex-Beatle

Saturday 28th October 2017
It was John Lennon who wrote Just Like Starting Over during his post-Beatles career but forecasts for Leonardo Bonucci were more akin to Sir Paul McCartney.

Lennon's love song to Yoko Ono almost fits the Italian defender's sudden elopement from Juventus to AC Milan. You need only alter the tense and change the pronouns.

Our life 

together

[Was] so precious 

together

[I] have grown,

[I] have grown

Although our love

[Was so] special

[I'll] take a chance and fly away

Somewhere

Less than 150 kilometres separate Milan from Turin. In that sense, Bonucci didn't fly too far away. In the more significant context, however, he couldn't have flown farther.

These are the two greatest teams in Italy and thus mortal rivals. Juve has won 33 Scudettos, counting the pair pried from the Agnelli clan's cold, living hands after Calciopoli. Milan has only 18. On the other hand, the Rossoneri have seven Champions League/European Cups compared to the Old Lady's two (plus three UEFA Cups). Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione's dick-measuring contest was limp by comparison.

As Kingsley Ukpai noted earlier in the week, Bonucci was the heart of Juve's three-man central defence. His leap from one Italian pillar to the other utterly eclipses Andrea Pirlo's corresponding switch in 2011. Il Maestro was considered over the hill by Silvio Berlusconi's legendary chief executive, Adriano Galliani, when he joined the Bianconeri to prove he still had four good years left in him. Bonucci is in his prime and, as a defender in the land of catenaccio, far more significant than even the most gifted playmaker in Serie A history. His betrayal surpasses Brutus, Benedict Arnold, and Judas Iscariot. It's on a par with Luis Figo.
To date, though, the change hasn't worked exactly to plan. Despite manager Vincenzo Montella converting to a back three to accommodate his new captain, Bonucci has been uncertain and uncharacteristically error-prone. Coming into the weekend, Milan is eighth in the table, two places lower than its 2016-17 finish.

For her part, the Old Lady has yet to kick up her heels either. Max Allegri's side has only lost once but Napoli and Inter have yet to taste defeat, leaving the Scudetto holders in unfamiliar territory: third place. Even so, Milan is the team that doesn't appear quite ready to host their tea-time clash, despite a summer shopping spree that had pundits predicting the club would end Juve's six-year run as Serie A Champion.

As he had been in the Bianconeri defence, Bonucci was the centrepiece in that signing bonanza.  Milan spent €180 million on seven players (Bonucci, Andre Silva, Andrea Conti, Hakan Calhanoglu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, and Lucas Biglia) while also picking up Franck Kessie and Nikola Kalinic on frees, and Fabio Borini on loan from Premier League relegated Sunderland. The problem isn't Bonucci. It's simply that a completely overhauled squad playing a new system requires time to find its chemistry.

When you're the bassist who leaves a defensive unit featuring Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli on guitar, Gigi Buffon on drums, you're going to struggle to develop a fresh sound with new bandmates.

People forget that when Paul McCartney left the Beatles he put out some rather inconsistent solo material before starting Wings. McCartney and Ram, both released in 1970, featured one hit apiece: Maybe I'm Amazed and Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey respectively. The only tune to pass time's test from the first two Wings efforts that came next, Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, was My Love. Only then did Sir Paul find the right mix with Band on the Run.

Similarly, people will forget that Bonucci and his new Milan band were discordant in their first few performances during the defender's inaugural San Siro campaign. He hasn't suddenly lost his talent. He only needs to learn where it fits in a new group. Sooner or later, Milan will (going back to John Lennon) "spread [their] wings and fly." Then it will be just like starting over.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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