Leonardo Bonucci is a former midfielder who is usually deployed as ball-playing centre-back in a three-man defence (although he is also capable of playing in a four-man defence, both in the centre or out wide), Bonucci is primarily known for his technique, passing range, and his ability to launch an attack from the back with long passes. Although he is not the quickest player over short distances, he is a tall, mobile, and strong defender, with a good positional sense, as well as good anticipation, solid tackling, and an ability to read the game and mark opponents, on top of his ball skills; he also excels in the air, and frequently poses a goal threat from set pieces. Although he was considered to be a talented and promising young defender, he was also criticised by certain pundits for being inconsistent and prone to errors or lapses in concentration in his youth, which were dubbed “Bonucciate” in the Italian media; however, he showed notable improvements during the 2014–15 season, and established himself as one of the best defenders in world football, also drawing praise from manager Pep Guardiola, who described Bonucci as one of his “favourite ever players”. His unique playing style has led Giovanni Galli to compare him to former sweeper Gaetano Scirea. In 2012, The Guardian named him the 88th Best Player in the World. In 2016, his defensive attributes, as well as his skill on the ball, vision, and accurate passing, moved La Repubblica to dub him as “Beckenbonucci”, a reference to former German sweeper Franz Beckenbauer. In addition to his defensive, playmaking and technical skills, Bonucci has also been praised for his leadership.
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On 14 July 2017, Bonucci left Juventus and was signed by A.C. Milan on a five-year contract for a €42 million fee. On 4 August 2017, Bonucci was named one of the three finalists for the Defender of the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League season award. Milan’s manager Vincenzo Montella subsequently named Bonucci as the team’s new captain later that month. On 23 October, he was named to the 2017 FIFA FIFPro World11. Although much was expected of Bonucci and Milan, the first half of the 2017–18 season was disappointing both for him and the club, and he drew criticism in the media over the quality of his performances. He scored his first goal for Milan on 6 January 2018, in a 1–0 home win over Crotone. On 31 March, Bonucci scored the equalising goal against his former team away to Juventus, breaking goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s record of longest consecutive minutes not conceded in an eventual 3–1 defeat. On 2 August 2018, Bonucci returned to Juventus as part of a swap deal with A.C. Milan involving Mattia Caldara; both Bonucci and Caldara were tagged for €35 million transfer fee. He signed a five-year contract until 30 June 2023.