It was just the other day when mayhem ensued outside of Milan’s headquarters of Casa Milan. A couple of hundred fans patiently stood waiting for the arrival of the most unexpected deal of the transfer window to be finalised… Yes, that would be Leonardo Bonucci! The expected heir to Gianluigi Buffon’s armband was crossing the great divide, exchanging his white stripes for red, and, what rubbed salt into the deep wounds was the promise that he would be named club captain. An unusual precedent for a player who had yet to step foot at Milanello, but one, which Rossella Marrai-Ricco feels, is crucial.
Echoes of a remixed version of “Sarà Perché Ti Amo” reverberated across the piazza, and when the Audi transporting Bonucci arrived at Also Rossi, fans let out the biggest screams of joy that had not been heard since 2007’s success in the UEFA Champions League final.
Not since the return of Kaka in 2013 had a player been that warmly welcomed by the Milanisti faithful, and the wide-eyed smile spread across the 30-year-old’s face said it all… Bonucci’s arrival immediately made him part of something much bigger than just a simple switch between rivals.
It was a new beginning for him, but in the same token, it was the start of a new and exciting chapter in the Rossoneri history books. And he was likely to be the author of it…
Even before the towering defender had been rumoured with a Juventus exit, Milan had already undergone a transfer market campaign worthy of Adriano Galliani in his prime, courtesy of the unrelenting work ethic from Massimiliano Mirabelli and Marco Fassone.
A total of eight players had already been snapped up, and it included some of Europe’s most impressive defenders last season, along with Cristiano Ronaldo’s heir, Andre Silva, the continent’s leading set-piece taker Hakan Calhanoglu, and Africa’s exciting prodigy Franck Kessie.
Their arrivals to Milanello was the start of a change in mentality amongst the fans, but when Bonucci greeted the mass of people at Casa Milan’s doors, and uttered the words: “Ci vediamo dopo” (We will see later), did the full crux of the paradigm shift take place.
The jubilant mood felt across the fashion capital had little to do with snatching away one of the best defenders in the world from their rivals. Instead, Bonucci’s signing provides Milan with a unique psychological boost that hasn’t been present since Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s transfer seven years ago.
It has created an element of belief that Milan can now compete with Europe’s heavyweights for the signature’s of in-demand players, and Fassone’s pursuit of a big-name striker is further proof of that. Moreover, the psychological impact Bonucci will bring to the changing room will ultimately spark a different mentality amongst his new colleagues…
For years Milan have awarded the armband to the player with the most Rossoneri appearances to his name, seeing it often switch between Ignazio Abate and Riccardo Montolivo depending on availability.
Sadly, the veteran midfielder hasn’t been able to fill the boots of Paolo Maldini and Massimo Ambrosini, and his quiet persona saw him become the equivalent of a soft voice in the boisterous Curva Sud. It is because of this, that Bonucci is likely to inherit the armband famously sported by Maldini and Franco Baresi, and there is little doubt that he will live up to their daunting legacy.
Rarely one to ever feel unnerved by responsibility, the Italian international spent the past seven years at Vinovo developing into one of the world’s most progressive defenders, and being molded into one of the game’s toughest hard-men.
Under the guidance of Antonio Conte and the incredible partnership alongside Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon, the Viterbo-born player learned the values of leadership, and, above all, the hunger to succeed.
During his time with The Old Lady, Bonucci went on to swing aloft an impressive 15 trophies, and despite winning all there is to attain in Italy, he has never once showed any sign of complacency. For him, it’s about “fighting with more hunger than ever,” as he declared in his latest Instagram post, and he is likely to carry that same mentality to Milanello.
Known for having his own personal mentor and motivator, Bonucci is well aware of what is needed to compete and succeed at the top. He consciously ensures that he is constantly placed in a stimulating environment and is surrounded by encouraging people who are guaranteed to fuel his unwavering passion and desire.
All these elements are required traits for a Milan captain, and with the Rossoneri having lacked that strong personality in the locker-room for several years, it comes as no surprise that Vincenzo Montella is tempted to hand him the ‘fascia’.
The ominous banner from two years ago, which read: “Game over. Insert coin and save AC Milan.” Seems like a long and distant memory now… And after a long and patient wait, the fans can now prepare to see a real leader head out of the San Siro tunnel, and he is likely to get an arousing welcome by the Curva Sud.