Football careers are all about highs and lows. Just ask Leonardo Bonucci who saw it all in the space of 12 months.

The defender endured an underwhelming year at Juventus, marred by another disappointing Champions League elimination. Moreover, Inter managed to end the Bianconeri’s nine-year domestic dominance.

However, 2021 also had its decent moments for the Old Lady, like winning the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup and earning a last-day Top four finish.

Nevertheless, the striking contrast between ups and downs was incredibly displayed by Roberto Mancini’s Italy in 2021.

The Azzurri lifted the Euro 2020 during the summer, with Leonardo Bonucci in particular scoring the equalizer that brought them back to the final at Wembley.

But just few months later, the European champions were left facing the threat of missing out on their second World Cup in a row.

Italy ended their group stage campaign in second place behind Switzerland, and will now have to contend for a spot in Qatar 2022 through playoffs.

But for Bonucci, he’ll be adamant on earning the spot at the expense of North Macedonia, Turkey and Portugal, as it would be a perfect gift for his children who are yet to watch Italy playing in a World Cup.

“Now we have to concentrate on what goes off the pitch, when we meet again in March I’m sure that what happened in the autumn will serve as a lesson and we will have two great performances,” the veteran defender told Rai via Calciomercato.

“I told my teammates that the days that divide us from the playoffs must always be better, and then I want to give a gift to my children who have never seen Italy at the World Cup “.

“During the European Championship I discovered that I lived football in a different way, the decline after that victory was physiological.

“In a normal situation we would have played games that mattered less and a few slaps would have allowed us to get back on track, but we have not had the time to do so. But now we have to look ahead and put the past behind us.”