Just over a year ago, Leonardo Bonucci made all the headlines as he swapped the black and white stripes of Juventus for the red and black of AC Milan for just €42 million – a steal for a player of his caliber. Leo was immediately given captaincy of the Milan giants and was coined a traitor by a portion of Juventini.
It seemed a massive coup for Milan as they not only significantly strengthened their own squad, but also weakened that of a direct competitor. In the league Juve didn’t miss a beat without their former central defender. Milan didn’t start the season the way they were hoping to for a variety of reasons, one of which being Bonucci looking all sorts of confused. Juve finished top of the table and won their 7th straight scudetto; Milan finished 6th for the second straight season, only picking up one more point than the year before. Bonucci was quoted as saying he’d move the equilibrium upon joining the rossoneri. Safe to say he was off by a little bit.
A little more than a year later Bonucci is making another shock move, potentially even more shocking than his previous one. According to various reports from Italy, he is indeed headed back to Juventus just one season after leaving the Turin based club. Leo scored at the Allianz Arena in a losing effort against Juve in March and performed his signature celebration against his former club (a no go in terms of loyalty). Looking at the transfer at face value is truly shocking, as it would appear Milan are losing their captain and one of the best central defenders on the planet. However, the new sporting director of Milan, Leonardo, deserves a lot of praise and courage for the return he is receiving.
With Milan sending Bonucci to Juve they are in return receiving the very promising central defender Mattia Caldara and the proven Argentine hitman Gonzalo Higuaín. Juve will receive €18 million this season from Milan as Higuaín is joining on a paid loan with an option to buy at €36 million; Caldara and Bonucci are swapping with no money involved. Both players headed to the San Siro fill immediate needs for Milan and while Higuaín will grab all the headlines – and goals, Caldara will be a pillar of Milan’s defense for years to come and score a few himself (10 over the past two years).
For Juventus I can see why they decided to pass up on such a promising player in Caldara in order to reacquire Bonucci. With the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo, they have plenty of depth up top allowing them to move on from Higuaín and cut some wages (Higuaín is one of the highest paid players in Serie A). They also are under immense pressure to perform in the Champions League and with Bonucci back in the fold he gives them the assurances that Caldara does not at this moment in time. They are in win-now mode and a player of Bonucci’s stature immensely helps their chances on all 3 fronts.
From a Milan perspective, this is a massive win as they finally get that proven goal scorer they have been searching for since selling Zlatan Ibrahimović to PSG in 2012. They have tried many options, many of whom have failed, save for a small stretch of magic from Mario Balotelli after his transfer in 2013 from Manchester City. He scored 12 goals in 13 games to propel Milan back into the Champions League. Higuaín is a goal scoring machine with 10 straight seasons of double digit goals (8 of which he hit 20 or more). Just two seasons ago he smashed the Serie A scoring record with 38 in his last season at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples. Caldara has plyed his trade for an impressive Atalanta side over the past two seasons with the most recent one being on loan from Juventus. His excellent form has earned him praise from all over the peninsula and he earned his first international cap back in June against World Cup winners France. He should form the backbone of gli Azzurri for years to come with his new club teammate and future rossoneri captain Alessio Romagnoli.
Juventus are once again making a splash this offseason as they look to end their Champions League drought. However in doing so they have done the opposite of their transfer trend of recent years in strengthening a direct rival instead of weakening one.
Let the season begin.