Italian international central defender Leonardo Bonucci has been the focus of transfer speculation for some time now and news of his imminent transfer isn’t this summer’s greatest surprise.
The likely destination of Milan is undoubtedly a huge surprise. However, and a lot of questions are being asked as to why Juventus seem ready to sell him to a direct Serie A rival.
Dig a little deeper under the surface and there’s a certain logic to be found behind this likely deal. Firstly: few clubs in Europe have as marked a history for taking ruthless short-term decisions for the benefit of their long-term aspirations as Juventus – usually successfully.
Secondly: the Turin club consider Champions League clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris St.Germain as their direct major rivals these days, rather than any of the Serie A rivals who have trailed in their wake this past half-decade. Even a Milan side with Bonucci and the £100m worth of other talent the new Chinese owners have spent lavishly on have a country mile to make up on Juventus.
So it’s hardly all doom and gloom for Juve. The departure of Bonucci represents the loss of a player who reportedly had begun to affect squad morale through disagreement with teammates and coach, while an opportunity to promote the outstanding prospect Daniele Rugani or Mattia Caldara as his successor presents itself – and that’s even without thinking of reinvesting the substantial fee.
It’s also worth referencing history to look at the direct deals done in the past between Juventus and Milan to appreciate that Juventus have invariably had the better of them. In 1995 Juventus sold Roberto Baggio to Milan because they wanted to build a team around Alessandro Del Piero. Baggio struggled to fit in at the San Siro and moved on again two seasons later while Del Piero went from strength to strength.
In 2013 Juventus sold Alessandro Matri, at the time a regular scorer for them, to Milan for £9m. The move was a disaster, Matri scored just a single goal for his new club and was back on loan at Juventus in time to score the winning goal for them in the 2015 Copa Italia Final.
Paolo Rossi was still a big name forward and just 28 years of age when Juventus concluded he was past his best. Milan pounced to sign him in 1985 and quickly discovered just why Juve were so happy to sell them the 1982 World Cup winner. One season and two goals later he was on the move again.
Milan did have more luck when they expensively bought Pippo Inzaghi in 2001. The forward was an important player for them for the next decade, though it’s often forgotten that Juventus sold him because he was nothing more than an elite sub, behind David Trezeguet in the pecking order.
Direct deals in the other direction have proven to be more beneficial for Juventus, too. Edgar Davids flopped in Milan then went on to star for Juventus, while back in the 1970s Juventus acquired the international midfielder Romeo Benetti in an exchange deal for Fabio Capello. Benetti was a huge success in Turin while Capello barely played at Milan, laid low by his chronic knee issues.
So if this controversial deal goes through, hang fire before making a judgement on its logic. Juventus are the canniest of operators and don’t be surprised if in a couple of seasons time the received wisdom is that this was yet another craft move.