Leonardo Bonucci says lifting the Europa League trophy would represent a “source of pride” for everyone associated with Juventus.
It has been 18 years since the Bianconeri last tasted success on the European scene, and Bonucci believes they must make the most of the opportunity they find themselves in.
Speaking exclusively to UEFA.com ahead of tomorrow’s semi-final return leg, the 26-year-old said: “Since our last European trophy in 1996, we haven't been this close to winning a final, so for us it would be a source of pride. It would return Juventus to being one of the best teams in Europe.”
To edge closer to their goal, Juventus must first see off Benfica, a side who have displayed their hunger and determination to atone for last year’s final defeat with a repeat appearance this season.
“Any team that gets to this stage of the competition is strong. They’ve shown their individual talent and reached the final last year, risking everything and only losing to a great side like Chelsea. I also say that in football, aside from ability, you also need a slice of luck.”
The Bianconeri’s run to the semi-finals has been marked by the contributions of Andrea Pirlo, who is enjoying another fine campaign in the black and white stripes.
His strikes against Fiorentina and Lyon proved crucial in continuing the team’s European journey, prompting Bonucci to hail the mercurial midfielder’s unquestionable influence.
"He's a leader – a silent leader, but one who knows how to carry his team through difficult moments. He showed that in Florence, ensuring that we won the match and progressed. He then also scored an important goal which helped us get past Lyon.
“Outside of football, he's a great man and has been one of the world’s best midfielders in the history of the game."
Click here to watch his full interview on the UEFA.com website.