We are known as the team with the soft underbelly and gone are the days when we were safely anchored by title-winning pair Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany. We’ve tried promising youngsters like Matija Nastasic, Stefan Savic and Eliaquim Mangala, seasoned pros like Martin DeMichelis and proven La Liga stars like Nicolas Otamendi. Players we have let go have gone on to make great strides in their careers like Savic at Atletico Madrid and Jerome Boateng at Bayern Munich.
However since we last won the title we have not been able to get the centre-back pairing right. Vinnie’s gone, guys. We don’t want to admit it and the tears may flow but our Captain Fantastic, barring a miracle, will no longer feature for us on a regular basis and there is no room left for sentimentality. So what is the solution?
The Case for Leonardo Bonucci
- Keen to experience the league with our Coach: Hot on the heels of reports linking us with Alexis Sanchez come new ones which read the fairly obvious into the Italian’s gushing praise of Pep Guardiola and admiration for the Premier League.
“It fascinates me. When I can, I watch English games, and not only for the quality of the players on display. I’m hot headed and I love the passion that exudes from their packed stands. It’s for that kind of thing that I’m the first on the training pitch and the last to return to the changing room. When one of the best managers in the world says you’re one of his favourite players, you act like it’s nothing. But you still can’t help but have a smile on your face. This praise only confirms my important progress. It’s always nice.”
- Possesses the Right Stuff: The Manchester Evening News quotes Guardiola on the subject of the qualities of the centre backs he needs:
“The defender has to be rougher and tough,” he said. “You cannot compete with strikers like Lukaku, Ibrahmovic, Costa. You have to be like that. We are looking for not just that, there have to be qualities of a player, for us it’s so important.”
- A Winner: The 6 ft 3 inch CB has won 6 Serie A titles and a Champions’ League medal in his impressive list of honours.
- Decorated, Distinguished, Experienced: At 29 years old and having seen it all with club and country, there could be no better partner for John Stones.
- It was actually Bonucci’s ball-playing ability that enabled him to get his move to Juventus from Bari in 2010. He is indeed, a Pep Guardiola player. Bonucci was quoted in April as saying:
“Here people describe me as a midfielder who is ‘borrowed’ by the defence. I have always played that way and probably always will, although sometimes I think there can be too many horizontal passes.”
- Bonucci still values what it means to be a defender and is ‘always willing to put his body on the line’:
“Over the years I have matured. At first I preferred to make a good pass and even loved pushing forward to score goals, but at Juve, where the defensive movements are very important, I’ve improved my skills. Now if I make a decisive tackle or interception to prevent a goal, it is a really satisfying moment.”
- Mental Fortitude: Italian motivational expert Alberto Ferrarino describes his treatment of Bonucci:
“Over the years I took Bonucci into my basement. Underground. In the dark. There … I offended him in every way possible. I judged him. I insulted him. If he made even the slightest attempt to glance at me, he’d receive a punch straight to the stomach. The objective? To win over judgement, so Leo would always be focused and ignore everything else … That’s how I made him into a soldier.”
- Brave: Bonucci responded to an armed mugger threatening himself and his wife by punching the assailant in the face! “Bonucci stayed perfectly still and the mugger grabbed his wrist, but the player spotted an opening and punched the attacker with his free hand”.
- European Know-How: Bonucci has made 58 appearances in European club competition. He also has 69 international caps for Italy.
- The Man can Pass: Bonucci’s pass completion stats in both Serie A and the Champions league average from 86-87%.
- Pep is a fan: Back in February last year following Bayern’s 2-2 draw in the Champions league, he said:
“Did you really think we could come here and expect to dominate for 90 minutes against a side with Pogba, Mandzukic, Morata, Bonucci – one of my favourite ever players?”
- Highly Rated: Rob Pollard writing for The Bleacher Report has assessed him thus:
“Bonucci would bring qualities City desperately need. He’s arguably the most complete defender in the game. Strong, comfortable in possession, tactically astute, good in the air and an exceptional slide tackler; few anticipate danger quite as well as the Italian.”
“…the latest exceptional protagonist in that great Italian pursuit – the art of defending.” (The Guardian)
- Keen to part ways with Massimiliano Allegri?: Bonucci had a furious nose-to-nose confrontation and traded X-rated insults with Juventus boss Allegri in February and is said to be keen to move on, especially if Allegri remains.
- Is capable of nodding in corners – a skill sadly lacking in Guardiola’s Man City. An example is his winner for Juventus against Udinese in March.
- Is a master of 3-5-2, a formation many believe Guardiola is keen to employ next season. Bonucci formed the centre-piece of Antonio Conte’s 3-man backline which was the basis of his 3 Scudetto title wins in Italy. Mark Doyle at Goal.com reported:
“Indeed, the defender’s calmness in possession and impressive range of passing became central to Juve’s games, with his raking balls downfield offering an important alternative to the more measured build-up favoured by Juve’s then regista, Andrea Pirlo”.
- Possesses both silk and steel:
“There really is no other centre-half in the world as gifted at making tackles as making passes”.
Verdict from The Blue: Yes, please!
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