In modern day football, being strong with your head isn’t just about aerial ability, it’s also about mental strength, concentration and self-motivation. Characteristics which are synonymous with Leonardo Bonucci.
The defender’s natural talent has been supplemented in recent years by a wealth of experience and a consistent development from both a footballing and personal point of view. So much so that he has now become an undisputed member of Antonio Conte’s starting line-up and was actually the most frequent player to take to the field this season, chalking up a total of 48 appearances, the same figure as Andrea Barzagli.
The 26-year-old was a constant fixture on the teamsheet in the Champions League, Coppa Italia and also in mid-August’s Super Cup match-up against Napoli. Furthermore, he missed out on just five league fixtures throughout the entire campaign.
The Italian international was not only a shining light in defence but also drew on his past experience as a midfielder to dictate the pace of play and build attacks from the back. He attempted 1854 passes at 88.7% over the course of the season, a figure only surpassed by midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
However, Bonucci was also always alert to the occasional need to clear danger at the back via a traditional defensive punt downfield, a trait which saw him placed second in terms of clearances on 160, behind Barzagli’s tally of 181.
The Viterbo-born stopper was not a force to be reckoned with in the opposition penalty area during the championship season, but he did net a crucial equalising goal in the Champions League against Shakhtar, a precise and powerful top corner finish which gave the Bianconeri a 1-1 draw at Juventus Stadium in the group stage.
If coaches are judged not only by victories but also by the development of players, then Conte would receive top marks for the work done with Leonardo Bonucci.