Leonardo Bonucci is in Milan to finalise a mega five year deal between Juventus and AC for a fee reported to be around €42 million for the star centre-back.
The Rossoneri have been bulking up their squad this summer with a view to regaining their place in the Champions League for the first time in years, but such a move would also make the club serious contenders for the Scudetto. It begs the question: why are Juve selling him?
From the outset, it makes no sense. Milan are a close rival who could challenge their domestic supremacy, while any number of clubs abroad would have surely sought him out. Antonio Conte, for one, was dead set on reuniting with Bonucci at Chelsea last summer, with the club ready to break the bank. No such deal materialised as the Blues settled for David Luiz.
We must take into account the fact that players cost more for Premier League clubs than they do in mainland Europe. For instance, Kyle Walker is close to moving from Spur to Man City for a reported €57 million. That's €17 million more than Juve are getting for arguably the best defender in world football. Admittedly, that's still a monumental amount of money for a 31-year-old defender, but you'd still figure Chelsea or Man City would inflate that price somewhat.
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It also feels like a weird move for Bonucci, on paper at least. The Italian champions are just off the back of a sixth consecutive league title and a second Champions League final in three years, while Milan finished sixth last season, missing out on Europe's elite competition altogether. Why would a player at the top of his game leave a team approaching Super Club status for a former powerhouse who have struggled the last few years?
One-half of the answer lies in his relationship with the manager. Back in February it was reported that Massimiliano Allegri got in a row with Bonucci on the touchline while the team were in the middle of a match, a 4-1 drubbing of Palermo. The coach was heard to have shouted "Shut up, dickhead! Fuck off," but they later buried the hatchet and get on with the usual business of dominating Italian football. But it was another, more famous 4-1 that has resulted in the player's banishment from Turin.
At half-time of the Champions League final against Real Madrid, Bonucci is said to have had a go a several of his teammates for their performance in the opening 45 minutes of the game. La Repubblica reported at the time that he and Allegri argued over tactics in the dressing room, and that is thought to have led to a complete breakdown in their relationship.
That, however, still doesn't explain why Bonucci is being sold to a direct rival, the answer to which lies in something much more serious. The Italian international has two sons, one of whom has suffered from health problems. Two-year-old Matteo was taken ill shortly after the footballer returned from Euro 2016, and had to have surgery. At the time he was understandably distraught, and admitted he even considered quitting the game altogether. During a press conference for the Italian national team, he got emotional and explained the situation.
He'd had a hernia treated, but we felt he wasn't the same boy anymore.
A wonderful doctor at the Regina Margherita Hospital then detected a serious condition, and we had to intervene immediately, something had to be done the next day at eight AM. Matteo didn't come out until four in the afternoon.
In those weeks I considered quitting football, I just couldn't think about work, I had really put it to one side.
The child appears to be doing better now, and Bonucci even brought both his sons out for end-of-season celebrations, but it's unsurprising that he wouldn't want to leave the country for a new club. That only left the option of leaving for one of the Milanese clubs, as no other Italian side could possibly have afforded him. Given the shambles that is the Internazionale organisation, that paved the way for Milan to land their man.
Main image via Sportsfile.