News broke sometime last week that Leonardo Bonucci, ex-Juventus and current AC Milan captain, wanted to return to his former club after just one season as Rossonero captain. It managed to anger both sets of supporters, who rarely agree on anything. Juventus fans felt no sympathy for him after he left them this time last year for their big rivals, and Milan fans were understandably upset that their captain was looking to jump ship so soon after signing a contract until 2022.
The reports say that Juventus are willing to take Bonucci back, and that Milan are willing to sell. The real sucker punch for Juventus fans is that Milan asked for both Mattia Caldara and Gonzalo Higuaín (who the Transfer Hound confirm has now joined AC Milan), in order to make the deal go through. Caldara is coming off the back of two strong seasons at Atalanta and, at only 24, he is one of the most promising Italian centre backs. Higuaín on the other hand needs no introduction. Last season he finished with 23 goals in all competitions and he’s proven time and time again to be a top striker.
The deal is one of the stranger ones in recent memories, and there are some distinct winners and losers should it go through.
WINNER: MATTIA CALDARA
The young Italian is arguably the biggest winner from this deal. At Juventus, Giorgio Chiellini and Medhi Benatia are presumably going to be the primary defensive partnership again this season, leaving Caldara to fight with Daniele Rugani and Andrea Barzagli for a spot as a mere rotation player. A young player needs consistent game time, and Caldara has no guarantee of that for the upcoming season.
At Milan, he will be playing side by side with Alessio Romagnoli, another one of Italy’s best defensive talents as well as having Gianluigi Donnarumma behind him protecting the sticks. These three could go on to form Milan and the Italian national team’s backbone for the next ten years, and for Caldara that has to be an attractive proposition. He’ll have the opportunity to have consistent playing time under footballing legend Gennaro Gattuso as well as forming a bond that could last for quite a long time.
Under Milan’s new ownership, he may have the possibility of flourishing and cementing his place as a top defender, while remaining at Juventus makes that task significantly more challenging. This is a big chance for him, and he’ll want to make the most out of it.
LOSER: LEONARDO BONUCCI
It’s easy to see why Bonucci could be a winner from this deal. He returns to the team that helped him win six league titles in a row. While at Juventus, he was indisputably one of the best defenders around, and it’s very possible he regains his previous form.
However, Bonucci didn’t leave the Bianconeri last summer on very good terms. Rumours circulated of him arguing with and slapping Paulo Dybala at half-time in Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final, and about disagreements with coach Massimiliano Allegri. In fact, he was made to watch Juventus’ game against Porto in his final season from the stands.
These rumours left a bad taste in fans’ mouths, then when Bonucci scored against Juventus as Milan’s captain back in March, he celebrated his goal in front of the same fans who used to cheer him on. Needless to say, Bonucci burned a lot of bridges when leaving Juventus, and only time can tell if they’ll be able to be rebuilt.
It’s also worth mentioning the hit his reputation will take if he leaves Milan only one year after being made captain. The image of a captain jumping ship isn’t one a player wants to have associated with them. It’s difficult to see Bonucci being a fan favourite after this, and his reputation will undoubtedly take a hit once the deal goes through.
WINNER: AC MILAN
Milan are coming off the back of a season of definite ups and downs, but Gattuso’s appointment as manager made them noticeably better. Now, under new and reliable ownership they’ve managed to make to very strong signings. Last season, Nikola Kalinic and André Silva massively underperformed and most of Milan’s goals came from Patrick Cutrone the youngster. Higuaín provides Gattuso’s team a reliable and consistent marksman who guarantees you goals, and might just teach his new teammates a thing or two.
Caldara isn’t as good as Bonucci yet, but as previously mentioned there’s a strong possibility that he could become part of a defence that proves very tough to break down. Swapping Bonucci for Caldara also means that the club isn’t going to have a captain who has expressed a will to leave either, which should hopefully prevent the team’s morale from taking a hit. All in all, one would have to say this is a great piece business by Milan.
LOSER: GONZALO HIGUAÍN
Higuaín was voted Juventus fans’ MVP in both seasons he spent at the club and won two domestic doubles. In any other circumstances a player like that would be unsellable, but with Juventus making the shock signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s the one who has had to pay the price. Juventus’ attack is packed full of talent, and the club decided that Higuaín was the player that had to make way, taking his age and wage into account as well.
For a top player like himself, the prospect of leaving the league winners for the team who finished sixth can’t be the most appealing option and it’s one that has been somewhat forced on him. He has the least to gain out of all parties involved in the deal.