Leonardo Bonucci can be replaced at Juventus, and Daniele Rugani can be the man to do so


And then there were five. Last season saw Juventus set a new Serie A record by claiming a sixth-consecutive title, with the small group of players who had been ever-present during those triumphs ensuring they caught the moment on camera. In the middle of the pitch with streamers, fireworks and champagne bottles popping all around them, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio and Stephan Lichtsteiner posed with skipper Gigi Buffon, all smiling proudly at their remarkable accomplishment.

It was a moment to cherish, particularly for Bonucci and Lichtsteiner, the latter eventually staying with the club after a difficult few months, while the Italy international spurned the advances of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in order to remain in Turin. His reasons were as heart-warming as they were understandable, citing a desire to not uproot his desperately ill son Matteo and to become "even more of a legend" at Juventus. 


Yet clearly all was not what it seemed, those grins masking an internal friction that began when Bonucci argued on the touchline during a match with Palermo, the spat leading to him being suspended by the club for the Champions League last-16 clash with FC Porto. The duo patched up their differences but the player exploded again during half-time of the competition’s final in Cardiff, lambasting Paulo Dybala before criticising Barzagli’s ineffectiveness at right-back.

The charade continued as Bonucci waved joyfully upon his return to pre-season training, only to shockingly move to AC Milan just 24 hours later. It was a transfer that caught the footballing world by surprise, but one which the Bianconeri seemingly recognised they had to complete in order to rid themselves of a discontented star.

If the destination caused a stir then so too did the price, Juve receiving €40 million from the San Siro giants, a third less than they could have gotten from either Manchester City or Chelsea, but again the player wanted to remain close to home. Milan is just a 50-minute journey from Turin via high-speed train, meaning Bonucci’s family will never be too far from their familiar and comfortable surroundings.

Much has and will be written about the reasons for this sudden exit and staggeringly low fee, but Juventus must quickly put it behind them and move on, with the loss of the 30-year-old even taking some of the sheen off the stellar acquisition of Douglas Costa just a few days earlier. The Brazilian is exactly the type of player the Bianconeri needed in order to close the gap to Europe’s three elite sides, but now the gaping hole in defence has instead become the focus of attention.


However, providing Allegri retains the 4-2-3-1 formation he deployed for much of last season – or at least avoids a return to a three-man backline – there is a case to be made that the club will not need to sign a replacement for Bonucci. His former cohorts in the famed “BBC” that has underpinned much of Juve’s recent success remain highly effective, with very few teams possessing a centre-back pairing as formidable as Barzagli and Chiellini.

Medhi Benatia was also signed outright from Bayern Munich last month to provide cover, yet perhaps nobody outside of Casa Milan will benefit more from Bonucci’s exit than Daniele Rugani. Seen as the next outstanding Italian defender, his progress has been stunted by the incredible depth of talent ahead of him at Juve, but there should now be far more opportunities to showcase his ability.

Despite not celebrating his 23rd birthday until the end of this month, he has already made 70 Serie A appearances and has proven he has the ability to one day supplant the BBC for both club and country. Calm and composed, Rugani is blessed with great timing and anticipation, able to stay on his feet and challenge for the ball without overcommitting or being too aggressive with an opponent. 

But while he may look placid and meek, he – like Allegri – is Tuscan, playing with a fierce pride that locals in his native Lucca will recognise instantly. The Juve boss is clearly an admirer of Rugani’s tactical intelligence and has urged him to show more fire on the field. The pressure of being at Italy’s biggest club highlighting the mistakes that Rugani can only learn to overcome through in-game repetition and practice.


According to WhoScored.com, he made 1.6 tackles, 1.8 interceptions and 2.1 headed clearances per 90 minutes last term, figures which compare favourably to Bonucci’s averages (1.1, 2.2 and 1.5 respectively) in the same categories. The new Milan signing is often widely lauded for his passing, but in 2016/17 he made 70.7 attempts per 90 minutes and connected with 87.2% of them, while Rugani made 69.3 passes at a 88.9% clip.

He has looked overawed at times, but fans who followed Juventus before this recent dominant era will not have to think too hard to remember another 23-year-old Italian who struggled when he came into the lineup alongside Barzagli and Chiellini. Yes, seven years ago it was Bonucci – then newly arrived from Genoa via a spell at Bari – who lacked confidence when fielded alongside the elder statesmen in the Bianconeri backline, but he soon was given enough playing time that he grew into the role and became a truly special player. 

Walking the same path and striving to become as effective, the sale of Bonucci might hurt Juventus in the short term, but Daniele Rugani is talented enough to step into the breach and shine. The Old Lady is waiting for him to do just that.