The legendary Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci has announced he will retire from soccer at the end of the next season. The 36-year-old Italian captain, most popularly known for his two long stints at Serie A team Juventus, will officially leave the sport behind when his contract with Juventus ends in 2024.
Bonucci has made over 500 appearances on the soccer field with Juventus and has been tapped 120 times by the Italian national team. He was part of the team that won the 2020 European Championships and represented the country at two World Cups in 2010 and 2014. He made his 500th appearance for Juventus in a 1-1 draw with the Spanish team of Sevilla in the Europa League semi-final opener on May 11.
"When I stop playing next year, it will be the end of a defensive era, a way of defending Italian style," said Bonucci. He mentioned his retired teammates, former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and ex-defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, all icons in their own right. "I hope a lot of future defenders will see us four as idols."
Bonucci played defense alongside Chiellini and Barzagli with Buffon at his back, forming one of the strongest and longest-standing defensive units not only at Juventus, but also with the national team. “Each of us benefited from playing alongside the others," Bonucci said. "The biggest step was with [coach Antonio] Conte when he had the idea of playing all three of us together in a back three. That's where we won a lot of matches that led to those nine years of success. Together we achieved something that will go down in football history. But with Italy and Juventus the three of us have shown that we deserve a place on that list."
The Italian soccer star is grateful to his 12 years with Juventus. "I have to thank Juventus because I've had the opportunity to come up against [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Cristiano] Ronaldo," Bonucci said.
And while he’s ready to retire, it’s a bittersweet moment. "I've come up against some out-of-this-world stars.. What I said to myself is 'enjoy it, enjoy it'... My character has allowed me to play 500 games for Juventus...Juve has always meant everything to me,” he said. “Everything I've done, I've done to defend a shirt that is like a second skin to me. Wearing this shirt for me was like living for 12 years in a dream."
Asia London Palomba
Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy. In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, The Christian Science Monitor, and Grub Street, New York Magazine's food section. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.