When Leonardo Bonucci signed for Juventus in the summer of 2010, great things were expected of him. Indeed the weight of expectations on the shoulders of young, promising Italian defenders are often a lot more than the promise they have shown. The pressure of being heralded as ai???the next Cannavaroai??i?? or ai???the next Nestaai??i?? would make any 20-year old cringe and might affect their career in the most negative of ways possible. Of course, that very ai???weightai??i?? could spur them on to bigger and greater things, as is evident with Leo Messi. But for Leonardo Bonucci, being hailed as the next great Italian defender, certainly hasnai??i??t helped his cause.

After an impressive campaign 2009-2010 campaign at Bari, a move to giants Juventus surprised no one. The price – ai??i??15.5 million, did however raise a few eyebrows. The club had invested in the potential shown by Bonucci while at Bari, alongside the equally impressive Andrea Ranocchia. The duo boasted one of the best central defensive partnership in the land and statistically Bari were defensively the second best team in Serie A. That stat however was thrown out of the window following a serious knee injury that ruled out Ranocchia for the rest of the season. Bonucciai??i??s performances went down a level but Bari did exceed all expectations and to their immense joy finished the season on 10th place.

In his first season at Juventus he blew hot and cold. Inconsistency was his biggest drawback. A few good performances that reflected his potential would often be corrupted by moments of sheer madness. Bonucci has the ability to make you pull your hair out in agony, his errors are maddening and would make even the most calmest of people around act like Maurizio Zamparini.

Will he ever live up to expectations?

The arrival of Andrea Barzagli would prove to be the best thing to have happened to the Juve defense since Giorgio Chiellini transferred into a more central role. And Bonucci has certainly benefitted from the arrival of the veteran defender; often covering for his errors and bailing him out of trouble. The club have the meanest defense in the league this season and most of it is down to Barzagli’s new found lease of life at Juve. That springs up another question – Is Bonucci worthy enough to start for Juventus on a regular basis? The answer is a straightforward no!

The latest error against Cagliari cost his side two points. After being skinned for pace by Ibrabo, Bonucciai??i??s weak clearance fell right into the path of Andrea Cossu, whose fierce effort led to Cagliariai??i??s equalizer. Itai??i??s these sort of errors that can prove to be the difference between success and failure, between three points and zilch, between his future at Juve and a, well, less ambitious club.

No doubt the club has invested in his ability but the Bianconeriare to yet to reap the benefits of their faith. Having decided to keep him and ignore the opportunity to offload him in the summer, Bonucci does owe the club big time, which he can only payback with his performances on the pitch. After a slow but steady improvement in his performances this season, the setback against Cagliari has proven that the former Inter man is too unpredictable to be starting for a club like Juventus, who are expected to perform at their best week in and week out. While his strengths do include a good reading of the game and his composure on the ball is praiseworthy, he does tend to give the ball away all too often with over-ambitious long balls and maybe a bit too relaxed in possession.

So what are the possible solutions?

 

Give him another chance, Conte!

Paolo De Ceglieai??i??s most recent couple of games against Novara and Cagliari has mirrored the promise he has shown last season. Indeed he has warranted another chance at a starting spot at left back which would push Chiellini back into his preferred central role alongside the defensive lynchpin Andrea Barzagli. Their partnership too has proven to be a lot more fruitful than the Bonucci-Barzagli partnership. While doubts may still circulate over the De Ceglieai??i??s ability to establish himself as a top-class fullback, he certainly does deserve another shot at reclaiming his position.

The rumored arrival of Martin Caceres could as well act as an alternate solution. Caceres, who is familiar with Juventus, having spent a loan at Vinovo, could slot in with consummate ease at left-back. The Uruguayan international does have experience at fullback as well, having played for his country there and is certainly admired by the Juve hierarchy. His versatility can only act as a boon for Conte.

For now though, it looks certain that Conte will stick with Chiellini at left-back and Bonucci in the centre. Ai??The coach does have a penchant for ball playing defenders and Bonucci does fit that bill. At 24, he still has a lot of time and scope for improvement but early signs do not indicate that he will live up to the tag of ai???the next great Italian defenderai??i?? that has been thrown on him.

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