Padraig Whelan Date: 8th August 2018 at 8:10pm
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When Leonardo Bonucci swapped Serie A champions Juventus, where he was a mainstay and key player, last summer for a struggling AC Milan side, it raised eyebrows.

Not just with Carlo Ancelotti either.

This summer, it is an even bigger surprise to see him on the move again, this time to return to Turin and make the move back to the Allianz Stadium after just 12 months.

If Juventus signing Cristiano Ronaldo was something of a shock, this one is equally so, simply because of the history and some of the bad blood that was stoked up around Bonucci and the Old Lady during and following his exit.

“Towards the end of last season, the bond had faded between us on both sides and so it was the right thing to do to go our separate ways,” Bonucci told Milan TV upon finalising his move last summer.

Perhaps a change of scenery, even if only for a year, will refresh and revitalise things for both sides, although the Italy international’s behaviour during Juve’s 3-1 win over Milan in Turin last season likely still leaves a bitter taste.

For fair or foolish reasons, we have witnessed several players opt against celebrating a goal against their former club and in the majority of cases, it is almost cringeworthy, such as James Rodriguez refusing to take pleasure in a goal against a Real Madrid last season, a side who had deemed him not good enough and who were happy to allow him to leave on loan.

However, Bonucci was a man who spent seven trophy-laden seasons with the Bianconeri and if he had opted against rubbing a goal in the faces of teammates and fans who once adored him, it would have been understandable.

But among Juventus fans, it didn’t quite go down well that he chose to wildly celebrate his goal against them last season to equalise for the Rossoneri, although afterwards he claimed that his actions were driven by the boos and whistles he had received before and during the game.

Whatever the case, as he prepares to return to the Italian champions, he is no doubt fully aware that there are perhaps some bridges to build with supporters and there is only one way of doing that.

He must play like the Bonucci who led Juventus to titles, trophies and Champions League finals and then any bad blood which is lingering may be forgotten about, or at the very least put on the backburner.

There’s no doubt he is capable of that and for all of the issues which may surround this transfer, one thing that there is no real question mark over is the ability of the former Bari man.

You dread to wonder how the Diavolo would have fared last season without him, with his quality always in evidence and you could also point to the marked improvements as a player of Alessio Romagnoli as coming from playing alongside the 31-year-old.

In addition, if the relationship and atmosphere around Vinovo was an issue for Bonucci and one that ultimately led to his departure, it should be noted that the Juventus he comes back to is a very different one than the one he left.

The trophies have kept coming but experienced stalwarts like Gianluigi Buffon, Dani Alves, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Kwadwo Asamoah and Gonzalo Higuain are no longer there, while they have freshened up in other areas with the likes of Mattia Perin, Joao Cancelo, Emre Can and a certain Portuguese forward who arrived from Real Madrid.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival alone brings a different vibe and mentality to Juventus, one which is of course aimed at finally ending their wait for a Champions League crown.

To do that, you need the best players available to you and when the opportunity arose to bring back Bonucci, the Bianconeri hierarchy deserve credit for showing no pettiness or ill will and putting the team’s needs above any egos.

After all, Bonucci has twice been part of teams which have reached the final and that is without Ronaldo, who could be the final piece of the jigsaw to get them over the line.

A centre-back was also badly needed after Benedikt Howedes was moved on and Mattia Caldara swapped Turin for San Siro.

Bonucci’s presence adds strength and competitiveness to a position which needed it and which now means Massimiliano Allegri can call upon him, Giorgio Chiellini, Medhi Benatia or Daniele Rugani and gives him the chance to be more versatile with his choice of system.

It is also no great risk for the Old Lady, as it would have been to recruit a foreign talent or even a similar kind of veteran presence from within Serie A.

They know what they are getting with the Viterbo native and that is consistency, reliability and excellent performances week after week.

Things may be a little rocky at first and not everyone is going to forgive and forget so easily.

But for the good of all parties, it is the best move.