Italy have produced some world class defenders in recent times; Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Franco Baresi are some of the defenders that have represented the Azzurri and achieved major success. The next generation looks promising as well, with Juventus’ Giorgio Chiellini, Inter’s Davide Santon and now Leonardo Bonucci impressing in Serie A. It is Bonucci in particular that has hit the headlines this season and his performances have interested top clubs in Italy and England, such as Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Man City, Inter Milan and Juventus.
The Bari centre back, 22, joined the club last summer from Inter Milan and has forged an extremely successful partnership with youngster Andrea Ranocchia for the Serie A club. Regular first team football has certainly helped Bonucci’s development this season, as he has played in all 33 games for Bari, scoring one goal and helping the club reach eleventh place in Serie A.
So how good is Bonucci? Tall (he’s 6 foot 3), elegant and unflustered on the ball, Bonucci is physically dominant and has an exceptional reading of the game. He is also versatile and can play as a full back as well, allowing him to launch swift counter attacks. Bonucci’s style has led to comparisons with Alessandro Nesta and the youngster grew up idolising the AC Milan defender. Bonucci’s performances for Bari also earned him a call up to the Italy squad, where he made his debut in the friendly against Cameroon in February and the defender is pushing for a place in Marcelo Lippi’s squad for the World Cup.
Last week, the likes of Arsenal, Man City and Man United were rumoured to be making a bid for Bonucci and Chelsea sent scouts to watch the Italian prodigy. Bonucci would fit right in at Arsenal next to Thomas Vermaelen in the heart of defence, especially with the uncertain futures of William Gallas, Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre at the Emirates, as the trio are all out of contract in the summer. The Italian could also back up Ferdinand and Vidic at Old Trafford, or be a replacement for the Serbian defender if he leaves in the summer. Manchester City and Chelsea could also use Bonucci as backup for their first choice centre backs, as he is young and has the potential to be an accomplished defender in the next years to come.
All four clubs are keen to secure an agreement with Bonucci before the World Cup begins in June, as his value could potentially skyrocket and alerted other clubs to his availability. Bari are understandably keen to keep Bonucci at the club, but are likely to sell him in the summer if a big club comes calling, as they cannot afford to keep hold of the talented youngster.