Leonardo Bonucci just celebrated his 500th appearance in a Juventus jersey, putting him in a small and elite group of players at the club who have hit that rather significant number in their career. They are some of the biggest and most memorable names to have ever worn the Juventus shirt, and now Bonucci is the sixth player to cross the 500-appearance mark.
In celebrating the achievement in a video posted to Juventus’ social channels on Tuesday, Bonucci also broke a bit of personal news as well.
Speaking to the Juventus TV microphones, Bonucci said that next season will be his last one, closing the door on a career that has seen him be one-third of one of the most dominant defenses that Serie A has ever seen. While there might be a little confusion as to what Bonucci meant when he said “When I stop playing next year,” one must consider this: The 2023-24 season will mark the end of Bonucci’s current contract and he will be 38 years old at season’s end. Based on how the 2022-23 campaign has gone and how he’s battled injuries for much of the season, one has to surmise that Bonucci is entering the final 12 or 13 months of his playing career.
Here is the quote from Bonucci in full when he was asked about being “the last one out” at Juventus from the BBC defense and goalkeeper Gigi Buffon:
“When I stop playing next year, it will be the end of a defensive era, a way of defending Italian style. It’s a source of pride to be up there with the greatest. And I hope a lot of future defenders, just as we had with Barese, Maldini, Nesta and Cannavaro, will see us four as idols. It would mean we have achieved a lot and given the game a lot.
You can watch the complete video in full below:
Buffon jokingly said in his message that Bonucci now has to get to 600 appearances “or else you’re nothing special.” Andrea Barzagli — the only one from Juventus’ famed defense from the Scudetto run who actually is already retired — quipped before Buffon’s message that the legendary goalkeeper doesn’t count in the BBC defense simply because people don’t call it the “BBBC defense.” It’s just BBC, according to Barzagli.
No matter if you consider there to be two Bs or three, Bonucci saying that next season will be his last certainly closes another long — and sometimes not always as smooth sailing as the others in that famed defense — chapter of Juventus’ history.
Bonucci, a former Inter youth product, arrived at Juventus in the summer of 2010 after plenty of debate over at our old stomping grounds, the Juventus Offside, which former Bari center back the Bianconeri should sign between Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia. He blossomed into one of the best at his position in Europe when Antonio Conte arrived and switched to a back three, creating the BBC defense with Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini in the process.
The road has not always been smooth for Bonucci, most notably his decision to both leave for AC Milan following the 2017 Champions League final loss to Real Madrid and then forcing a return to Juventus 12 months later, a move that kicked off some transfer creativity to bring him back to Turin. And with Chiellini dealing with more and more injuries as his own Juve career was winding down, Bonucci stepped into the captain’s role for club and country, officially being named Juve captain ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Now, like Chiellini and Barzagli before him, Bonucci’s impact is more as a behind-the-scenes leader rather than somebody still contributing a whole lot on the field. He’s only made 15 appearances in Serie A this season and is currently out injured with his latest muscle injury.
With Danilo — who has taken over as captain when Bonucci isn’t on the field — and Bremer establishing themselves as Juve’s two best central defenders and Federico Gatti on the rise, Bonucci’s role is likely to be the same type of thing come next season. That won’t get him to 600 appearances like Buffon joked, but being one of the six Juve players to get to 500 (or more) is still a pretty nice club to be in.