To say that Leonardo Bonucci was unceremoniously dumped by Juventus after years of service to the club is not an understatement. That it happened though was really no surprise — the central defender had already left once for an ill-fated stint at Milan — given how his form had precipitously dropped off the proverbial cliff in the last couple of seasons. What is curious however is that the 36-year-old likely has had the last laugh as he will be playing in the Champions League, albeit for underdogs Union Berlin, while Juventus are not even in Europe this season, for whatever reasons.
The former Juventus captain revealed the gory details behind his departure from Turin in a recent interview with Sport Mediaset (via Football Italia), amidst news that he was suing Juve on grounds that the club broke the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association when he was isolated from the squad, training separately and then left behind in Italy as the Bianconeri went to the US for a summer tour.
“I’ve read and heard many things that are not true, I’d like to start from afar. From that date mentioned several times by Juventus and the coach, when they said that they had made me aware of what was then the situation of this season already in October last year.
“It can’t be less true, in October last year in fact I was given the opportunity to continue at Juventus with a contract renewal.”
After a dozen years with Juve, Bonucci was particularly aggrieved with what he termed as being humiliated by the club’s leadership, in particular coach Massimiliano Allegri, new Technical Director Cristiano Giuntoli and Sporting Director Giovanni Manna.
“Then I heard something else following an interview with the coach, in which it was said that I had been made aware of the situation again in February 2023, when I had been told by the coach and the club that I would no longer be part of Juventus.
“I had no talks with the club at that time, but I started to smell something when I read in the newspapers that I would no longer be part of Juventus’ plans.
“Then Manna and Giuntoli came to my house on July 13 and humiliated me, because it was a humiliation, they told me that I would no longer be part of Juventus, part of the squad.
“In fact, they were giving me the chance to stay at home for a few more days and that even my presence in the locker room and on the pitch would hinder the growth of Juventus.”
Was taking legal action against Juventus and profiting from it the correct way to get his vengeance?
“My rights stipulated that I should have trained with the team regardless of the technical choice and been put in a position to physically and athletically face the following season.
“This was not granted to me, I no longer trained with the team. I felt drained of everything, humiliated, I couldn’t do what I love most.
“It’s not a question of money, if I win the case, I will donate everything to charity. And what’s more, I want my situation to be for the AIC, of which I am a councillor, a crucial role because every year people, players, men, professionals who have less strength than mine find themselves in these situations and in the end are compromised in order to continue playing.”
As far as who was responsible for forcing him out, Bonucci pointed the finger at Allegri without naming him, saying it was the coach who had exiled him in both his exits while claiming that two of his former Juve teammates Andrea Pirlo and Giorgio Chiellini were backing him.
“After two weeks of not being part of Juve, it is very difficult to think about the last period. I like to think about the Juventus I was a part of, the one that won, the real Juventus, the one that has never been seen in the last two years.
“I have nothing against Juventus. Juventus are the fans, the team, my former teammates. I am pursuing this cause because the people who were supposed to let me end my career with Juventus in a respectful and worthy way have not done so.
“This is the second time I’ve been forced to leave Juventus, in both cases because of the stance of an individual, which is not me… What is there for all to see is that I never had the relationship I wanted with the coach.
“It’s not just my fault because I have my character and very often I have taken positions for the good of the team and my teammates. This created a short circuit that didn’t allow me to end my career as I would have liked.
“Pirlo made me smile, he told me that maybe it could happen like it did to him, to continue winning somewhere else after they think you’re finished.
“I also heard from Chiellini, with whom I have a brotherly relationship, and also Buffon who wanted to hear my truth, different from what was written in the newspapers.”
Who else had reached out to him?
“In addition to [Italy manager Luciano] Spalletti, I was struck by the many messages, the closeness of current Juventus players, of former Juventus players, of fellow national team members all showing solidarity.
“They showed me their solidarity in the face of the disrespectful treatment they received from Juventus.”
Believe it or not, Bonucci isn’t finished with Juventus though, claiming he wants to return to coach the Bianconeri.
“Something in the future will be there. When I decide to start coaching, I have my path well in mind, what I want to do.
“Surely Juventus, when I become a coach, will not be the one of today and maybe there will be a way, one day, to re-embrace the fans, to greet them and make them understand how important Juventus was for me. The one of today I don’t feel is mine.”