Leonardo Bonucci is not your typical defender.
He is not even your typical Italian defender.
Fabio Cannavaro, tigerish in the tackle, a born leader.
Alessandro Nesta, exceptionally quick, good all round game.
Paolo Maldini, great at everything.
Leonardo Bonucci, on the surface of things, has no exceptional characteristics. He seems fairly strong, doesn’t lose many headers, and is adept with the ball at his feet. So, what is it that makes Bonucci so special?
Simply put, the man is the prototypical modern defender. His tactical knowledge and anticipation are absolutely second to none. You won’t find him leading the charts in Serie A for “headers won”, “tackles won” or “most successful passes”. He leaves the “dirty work” for both Italy and Juventus to his pals Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini. The three of them form the world’s best defence in front of Gianluigi Buffon, but Bonucci leaves the dirty work to the other two. Mozart-like, he conducts them and his midfielders in front of him to form often unbreakable walls.
Whilst searching for bits of information about Bonucci I came across a quote I had never heard: “One of my favourite ever players”. It is easy to imagine this quote about Leo Bonucci spoke by Marcello Lippi maybe, Antonio Conte, Buffon himself. Nope. None other than Pep Guardiola uttered the above words about the centre-half. Pep Guardiola is one of the most modern and forward-thinking managers in the world and he appreciates one of the most modern and forward-thinking players in the world.
Leonardo Bonucci doesn’t need to win the most headers. He simply positions himself in the right place and waits for the second ball to invariably come to him, so he can start a counter attack. Leonardo Bonucci doesn’t need to win the most tackles. He can simply shepherd a player away from goal, nullifying danger through a simple shift of the body. More than this, he is capable of scoring great, important goals as well as hitting decisive passes – see the fantastic, defence-splitting pass against Belgium last year.
The theory is that we are going balls out to sign Bonucci this summer and that, as per my Rumours piece, he is more open than he has ever been to moving abroad. Pushing David Luiz either to the left or further forward and allowing Bonucci to take the central role, using his positioning, mental strength, awareness and leadership alongside Azpi and Luiz himself would be the absolute best possible move we can make defensively this summer. Imagine the effect on young players like Nathan Ake and Andres Christensen that a serious, world class professional like Bonucci would have.
This is a slightly different than usual Scout Report piece as Leonardo Bonucci has no obvious strengths, nor does he seem to have any weaknesses. He is simply, a world-class footballer.