I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to start this. The past two days have been a nightmare whirlwind of rumors turned into facts turned into a soon-to-be transfer. Leonardo Bonucci, my favorite player, is leaving Juventus. For Milan. For €40 million. Juventus are selling the best center back in the world to a domestic rival for a pittance.
I am shocked, and disgusted.
Furthermore, I think this sequence of events has revealed some inconvenient truths that myself and many other Juventini have tried to ignore, as I will discuss.
I suppose a few caveats are in order before I start.
In fact, I may need caveats for my caveats.
For example, while the price we sold him for is embarrassing, it needs to be noted that Bonucci did not want to leave Italy. This limits Juve’s options. Bonucci has legitimate reasons for this demand. In fact, he has two of them. His wife did not want to leave Italy, and one of his sons has struggled with a serious illness recently. I cannot object to a parent not wanting to relocate their sick child. I can’t claim to have any specific knowledge on the illness — it is possible this information is public and has been reported on, but we all knew that one of his sons was having health issues — but I can relate to and understand the desire to not start a medical treatment over again in a foreign country with all new doctors.
Having said that, I have issues with issues with both Bonucci and Juve’s management. Bonucci was a model Juventus player for most of his tenure. Yes, there were issues recently with Max Allegri, and if rumors are to be believed, with other teammates during halftime of the Champions League final. But this is the same man who was in the Curva Sud when he was suspended and chanting with the ultras. This is the same man who epitomized grinta during his tenure with Juventus.
But things change, and apparently there were issues within the club that made Bonucci want to leave. So it goes.
This brings us to the Juventus management. The group we (rightfully) credit with Juve’s return to (relative) prominence. Juventus are run very well from a business point of view. The club is growing; the club is making money. The club is winning Scudetti. However, the club is not at the level of the top European teams.
For a counter-example, let’s look at Real Madrid. Several weeks ago there were plenty of rumors about Cristiano Ronaldo wanting to leave, since he is in trouble with the Spanish authorities over tax evasion issues. Have you heard anything about Ronaldo leaving Madrid recently? I haven’t. And yet Bonucci has gone from Juve to Milan in about 48 hours. And for €40 million. A paltry fee for the best center back in the world.
We can — and should — credit Beppe Marotta and others for their many smart signings over the years. But we cannot ignore the chronic inability — Paul Pogba sale aside — to get proper value on the sale of players. Tottenham fullback Kyle Walker was sold for more than Leonardo Bonucci will be sold for. That’s inexplicable. Granted, the caveats I described earlier apply, but to so easily sell him to a domestic rival for that fee is a highly suspect decision. As a reference point, Juve will likely pay more than the Bonucci fee for Federico Bernardeschi, if that transfer goes through.
Many folks may remember that Bonucci signed a new contract only a few months ago, one that lasted until 2021. Instead of making him fulfill that contract — even if it was in the reserves or on the bench — Juventus have handed him to a domestic rival that is re-arming at an alarming rate. Yes, we gain €40 million. But at what cost? Milan have already had a strong mercato, and this transfer takes it from strong to legendary. Juve will face them at least twice in this upcoming season. I hope Douglas Costa and our new fleet of wingers are enough to defeat them.
Juventus are still very much favorites for the Scudetto. Milan are in the running, just based off of transfers, for sure. But Juve are still a strong side. But this sale has existential implications.
Can we really hold on to players? We lost Pogba, we lost Arturo Vidal, and now we’ve lost Bonucci, a man who was for years pointed out as an exemplary Juve player. Does anyone really believe we can hold on to Paulo Dybala if there is serious interest from truly elite clubs? The Bayern Munichs, the Real Madrids, and the Barcelonas.
There is much about this transfer that is unclear. We don’t know exactly why Bonucci wanted to leave. We don’t know what happened at halftime of the Champions League final. But we do know a few things. We know that Juventus has sold a key player for the third consecutive summer, and this time for a relatively small fee. We know that Juve has a problem retaining top players. We have seen this.
I cannot blame Bonucci for his actions. I will forever cherish the many memories he gave me as a Juventino. Similarly, I understand the predicament that Juventus management were put in. They were severely hamstrung in any efforts to get a great deal for Bonucci. And yet, here we are. We are selling him to A.C. Milan for a modest fee. This cannot be ignored.
I am sure that Marotta will find someone in a garbage bin in Munich to replace Bonucci. He always does. And to be fair, Juventus own some of the most promising young Italian center backs. There’s a serious chance than Daniele Rugani makes us forget about Bonucci rather quickly. But the recent events cannot be ignored.
Can they be explained? Perhaps. We Juventini are waiting.