Leonardo Bonucci says his choice to move to Milan was made during a difficult time but ‘ultimately he made a poor decision.’
The Juventus vice-captain fell out with Max Allegri during the 2016-17 season and was forced to sit on the sidelines after insulting the Juve coach.
“It was a difficult season for me, both personally and professionally,” Bonucci told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“There were some disagreements and, especially after the defeat in the Champions League, I ultimately made a poor decision, but I have to say that the decision, which certainly influenced my career, improved me as a man.
“Those months at Milan let me do some soul-searching and made me realise that my calling was at Juventus, who are like my family.
“I met some beautiful people at Milan, first of all Rino Gattuso. It was a difficult year, but that’s not to say it was useless. At the end of it, I was very happy to go back home.”
“Coronavirus? I wasn’t scared, I’ve always been healthy, I didn’t show any symptoms, but many of my teammates were worried. We had the tests and that helped reassure us.
“Now, with the contagion curve going down, we just have to be responsible and stick to the essential rules that we’ve been given.
“I think it was right to resume the season. Football, especially in Italy, is important. Of course, we’ll miss the fans.
“Walking out to a full stadium, hearing the reactions of the fans is completely different from the lunar atmosphere of a competition with empty stands and strange silence.
“But for Italians, even just watching their favourite team on TV can give them relief. It can transmit to you the feeling that you’ll return to a normal life soon.
“There’s a risk of injuries. We’re athletes who aren’t used to taking such a long break mid season and restarting as if we were back on a preseason retreat. It’s never happened before.
“When we stop, in the summer, we have an objective, the dates we plan our preparations around. We’ve stood still for 70 days, not one. From here, we’ll have to play three times a week. The risks are obviously high. But what could we do?
“I’ve been impressed by how seriously my teammates took our training matches. No-one let themselves go, came back overweight or without any appetite.
“Everyone’s condition was acceptable anyway and then the individual training took care of the rest.
“We’ve improved since training together and playing matches in training. The coach is satisfied. He says: ‘I like it when the ball moves about like this…’
“After 70 days, to see how everyone wants to start again is testimony to the professional and human quality of this squad.
“I hope the season ends normally. If not, a lot of stories, controversies and appeals would arise… I’m not in favour of other hypotheses. If we stop again, it’s best to just finish it there and not assign anything.
“We hope to get to August 2 with a title winner declared, hoping it’s Juve…
“We’re concerned about Lazio. They’ve already taken a trophy from us this season, they’re a good team and Inzaghi’s a great coach.
“However, after this period of inactivity, it’s difficult to make predictions right now. Maybe those who were in form before the break are no longer, or vice versa.
“It will be beautiful, exciting, like a league that starts again with a defined starting grid. We’ll have to extract all the mental and physical resources within us for this new beginning. We were lucky enough to play against Inter in the conditions of the restart. It’s certainly odd.
“Fans cheering is part of football. It weighs on the focus and emotional reactions of the players.
“This is where the mental resources I was talking about come in. We’ll have to make up for the things that are missing.
“We’ll have to do well not to be affected by all this. It’s easy to think that we’ll face a team in difficulty, but we mustn’t do that.
“We’re playing for 90 percent of the season in one game. It’s too important to yield to unnecessary and dangerous underestimations.
“We too, in August, will be coming from an impressive tour de force, so we’ll need to have maximum focus.
“Allegri and Sarri? The differences are clear. Allegri’s very good at managing the dressing room, the most difficult moments of a season and at game management.
“He, in his five years here, was a master in each of these things. Sarri’s a meticulous, passionate tactician, who likes his teams to play good football.
“He’s also learned what it means to be Bianconero, in the sense that no prisoners are taken here.
“Since he has been with us, I’ve seen him make significant growth. He has a great wealth of football knowledge, but he also knows how to question himself.
“He had the humility to understand the dynamics of this collective. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by him, really.
“We keep in touch every day and we have moments of deep discussion. He’s someone who wants to improve, just like how I want to improve by understanding his football, which is original and different to the ones I already knew.
“Best and worst games? The game that gave me the most satisfaction is the one in Trieste against Cagliari, when we won, with Conte, the first title of this historical sequence. The Scudetto of Juve’s rebirth in the Agnelli decade.
“The worst? The Final in 2015, more than that of 2017. In Berlin, we were very strong and really close to winning.
“In the second half, we had the feeling that we could but maybe this mindset sapped our energy.
“In Cardiff, in the second half, we were at Real’s mercy instead. But it didn’t end there. I hope to be able to tell you, in a future interview, that my best match is a Champions League Final we’ve won.
“Most annoying opponent? Don’t be surprised if I say it’s Zapata. He’s big and rangy, he’s strong, quick. When I face him, I have one more thought in my mind.
“Great players hurt you as soon as you lose focus. I also have that thought in training with Ronaldo, Dybala, Higuain, Douglas Costa. As soon as you’re not at 100 percent, they zap you.
“I’d have loved to play with Ibrahimovic. He’s a leader, he has character and he’s strong. It would’ve been nice to face him in training.
“He comes across as a tough guy, but he’s a good person On the field, the players who have character, who are always motivated by the desire to win give you unique stimuli.
“And that’s what I’m always looking for, stimuli to improve.”
[Translation from Football Italia]