This season marks the last time football fans have been able to witness the historic Italian duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as Chiellini has announced his end with the Serie A’s Old Lady’ Juventus. Just recently, Chiellini revealed that his time in Italy is over and he will be experiencing new ventures overseas in North America as he’s signed an 18-month contract with LAFC on a free transfer. Bonucci will remain with Juventus as his contract is ongoing until 2024.
Over the years there have been a plethora of world-class Italian defenders such as Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Franco Baresi, Gaetano Scirea and many others. The duo of Chiellini and Bonucci however, is a more recent pairing that has brought the idea of defending to a whole other standard, a level that has set the bar to a significant height that only a few have reached.
Although Bonucci has bounced around clubs in recent years, Chiellini will be remembered as one of the loyals in Turin. In his younger years, Chiellini began with AS Livorno at the beginning of the new millennium. He wouldn’t see much playing time until around 2003/2004 when his tackling ability and composure on both center back and left back would catch the eyes of ACF Fiorentina and the U21 Italian National side.
After one season with Fiorentina, Juventus would come calling with an 8 million Euro bid which would entice both the defender and club to leave. From the 2005/2006 season onward, Chiellini would pave his way to becoming one of the best and most consistent defenders in Europe, let alone Italy.
From 2008 to 2010 Chiellini would win some personal accolades as he would be crowned Serie A Defender of the Year consistently for 3 years. By the end of the 2000s, Chiellini would be a definite starter for Juventus, averaging 30+ appearances per season in all competitions. By the summer of 2010, Chiellini would have already played with defenders such as Cannavaro, Martin Caceres and Nicola Legrottaglie but the transfer that was coming would be the beginning of an era.
In 2010 for a staggering 17 million Euros, Leonardo Bonucci would be purchased from SSC Bari and arrive in Turin at a mere 24 years old. From then, the legendary defensive partnership was born, with the inclusion of veteran Andrea Barzagli who would arrive in 2011. That 2011/2012 season would be the true beginning of Juventus’ dominance within Italy for the next 9 years.
The defensive ability from slide tackling, interceptions, getting into space, understanding where the next pass will go, AND their brilliant passing technique created not only a wall in the back but a starting point for the counterattack. We also can’t forget to mention that if something may have slipped through that Italian wall, it’s only legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who was the last obstacle to score.
Bonucci would have a brief pause with Juventus after transferring to AC Milan in 2017 for 46 million Euros just to return to Turin the next year for a mere 38 million.
The duo was unstoppable at the back, establishing a defensive formula that would enhance the other defenders that would play for them. In the streak of 9 consecutive league-winning seasons, Juventus would concede 203 goals in 342 games, an unbelievable statistic considering on average that’s around 22 goals in a season with 38 games…for 9 years.
For Juventus, the pair would still accumulate tons of silverware, together with winning 8 Serie A league titles, 5 Italian Super Cups and 4 Italian Cups. But that's just how they fared for Juventus, for the national side…the near end of their partnership would end on a high note.
In 2021 for the 2020 Euros, Italy would prove to be far better organized, better strengthened and more determined as a nation to go above and beyond in the tournament, the reason for this? Bonucci and Chiellini in front of young shot-stopper Gianluigi Donnaruma. The duo proved once again that even at their experienced ages, they can still fare against the world’s best.
Out of the group stages, the Italians did not concede once. In fact, throughout the knockout stages, they would only average 1 goal conceded per game which would allow them to get to the final where they would rightfully win the tournament. Chiellini would deservedly win Defender of the Tournament, and beside Bonucci they were a force to reckon with.
One of the most iconic coaches ever in world football Jose Mourinho mentioned in 2018 that Chiellini and Bonucci “could teach a class at Harvard on how to be a defender” and that quote has been cemented in football ever since.
This past 2021/2022 season is the last time the duo will have played club football together as Chiellini is moving on to brighter pastures. Their history within Italy and for Italy is indescribable as they will be placed in the same ranks as many of the legends before them. It seems to be an Italian tradition to have world-class defenders and Chiellini and Bonucci have cemented their place in history.
From the frustrating defensive positioning to the time-perfect tackling/intercepting, the two have been crucial for the last decade of Italian football. Their movement, intelligence, and understanding of the game made them unmatched by many others in their era. Role models for the future, the duo have certainly shaped a perfected ideology in defending so of course, they will always be commemorated by the culture.