Club News

Bonucci: “Barça are not as strong as before”

April 10, 2017 - 10:10 am

Leonardo Bonucci believes “Barça are not as strong as they were in 2015” and Juve’s defence is the stronger of the two sides.

Speaking ahead of the Champions League quarter-final in Turin, the Juve defender spoke with Spanish paper El Pais about the 2015 final, the changes to both teams and the illness of his son that almost made him quit football altogether.

“I have had the fortune, or rather the misfortune, of facing Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League Final,” Bonucci said of the 2015 final.

“We did well to contain them to a certain extent, but Leo Messi, Suarez and Neymar are among the 10 best players in the world – as are Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala.

“They are unpredictable and have so much talent. We have to cover the spaces well. Messi moves deeper now and it means he can surprise you at any time. As for Neymar, look at the 60 metre sprint he had for Brazil against Paraguay.

“Suarez never stops fighting and will try to use everything to his advantage – cunning, physicality, sneakiness. But we have a lot of important and experienced players in defence.

“I think our defence is stronger than that of Barcelona. We’ve been together for many years and proved what we’re capable of both for Juventus and Italy.

“In a two-legged tie where away goals count, a strong defence is an advantage. In the end, it’s all about having courage with the ball and sacrificing yourself without it.

“Barcelona had the same Coach for three years and that helps. Neymar has really improved, while Javier Mascherano has two more years of experience playing in defence. Ivan Rakitic has also matured.

“Having said all that, I think now Barça are not as strong as they were in 2015. In my view, Bayern Munich is the strongest side in the Champions League and I’m sure they would never have allowed a comeback like the one against Paris Saint-Germain.

“Our midfield back then had Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba. They gave us so much in that Final, but we have different players now, we have matured in the way we control the ball and understand more when to defend or attack.”

“The other day, talking to Marco Verratti, he told me you can’t press or even see the ball at times because the pitch is so huge. I know by heart how Barcelona play, as I’ve watched them so many times.

“Football is my life and sometimes my wife complains because if I have a day off, I’ll watch a game on TV. It was my dream as a child and I don’t know what I’d do without football… maybe become a Coach. If so, the more games I watch, the more I’ll learn.”

“Here people describe me as a midfielder who is ‘borrowed’ by the defence. I have always played that way and probably always will, although sometimes I think there can be too many horizontal passes.

“Having the ball and playing it means the possibility of defending with a higher line, although that can also mean risks.

“Over the years I have matured. At first I preferred to make a good pass and even loved pushing forward to score goals, but at Juve, where the defensive movements are very important, I’ve improved my skills.

“Now if I make a decisive tackle or interception to prevent a goal, it is a really satisfying moment. With Allegri we tend to alternate the short passes with more direct long balls, so I am happy to vary the different elements of my game.”

“Change of formtaion to 4-2-3-1? Of course there are differences. If you have the ball at your feet, it can become more dangerous, as if you get the pass wrong then it’s easier to recover with three at the back rather than four.

“Having said that, three years ago – although people might not remember it like that – we far more regularly had to deal with dangerous one-on-one situations and sometimes up to 50 metres of empty pitch behind the defence. Those were critical situations and we don’t see as many of them now.”

Bonucci missed part of the season as his young son Matteo fought a serious illness.

“For three or four months, my head was just not in the right place. It’s the head that gets the legs moving. For around 15 days after the surgery, until I started to see him improving, I was just not interested in training or anything to do with football.

“I’ve always hated hospitals and tried to avoid them, but at that time I had to be there and I was really struggling to be calm. Matteo is much better now and our family feels more united than ever.

“This morning, he slept in our bed and he woke up with a smile. You realise those are the greatest victories.”

“Yes, I thought about quitting. Football was just not my priority at that moment. You see your son with so much to live for, he’s asking you so many questions and why this is happening to him… and I had no answers.

“Priorities change at those times. Now I tell myself that I am lucky. Everything I have done has been from the heart.”

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  • Avatar
    E.Micallef April 10, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Bonucci I count on you as well as on the others. Dont let us down tomorrow. This means so much to you but much more to us. I believe we believe its time. I have have been supporting Juve for 32 years. You are just part of me. I have a family but i did not miss one match since the farse. I will not until you raise that cup. Millions feel like me. We count on you believe!!!