COVERCIANO (Florence) – Leonardo Bonucci is aware of the strength of the Italian national team, which is approaching its debut at the European Championships, Friday 11 June against Turkey, in excellent shape, back from 8 matches without conceding a goal and 27 matches without defeat. No problem if the continental tournament will be faced by some blue open market players: “The behavior of this team has always been exemplary, it is the beauty of this group, the unity and respect that exist – the words of the Juventus defender – the market? There will always be: I have seen those directly involved concentrated on the national team and the European. Of course everyone would love it with things fixed, but it might not happen. But we are professionals, even young people, who have grown a lot. This doesn’t bother me“.
Bonucci: “Ronaldo? Our champion is the group”
“The desire to get to the bottom of the competition is there, then to succeed you need a mix of very specific things. We embarked on a path with the coach Mancini and it was also seen in the last friendly. There are national teams ahead of us from experience and because they have won everything, but we are there, we want to fight and the way to play is in the lead in the 26 who are here in Coverciano. Playing in Rome with the opening of the stadiums will give us a hand. We will do our best, then we will see where we get. The thing that gives me confidence is the enthusiasm I see in the group“. The lack of absolute champions among the Azzurri is not a problem according to Bonucci:”The champion is the group. We don’t have singles like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukaku, players who have scored a lot and turn the race in a match. But the group here has always made a difference, that’s what must stand out. We have to grow as a team, fight for Italy and for the Italians. After such a black parenthesis as the 2018 World Cup, we want to bring Italy back to where it deserves“.
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Italy, what elegance with the Armani uniform!
Allegri’s return to Juventus
The discussion then moves, for a moment, to the change of coach in Juve, with the return of Allegri: “It was the right choice. Once Pirlo was taken off the job, it was right to choose a coach with great experience, who knows Juventus and who will help us in the management and in reaching the goals that a club like Juventus sets itself every year.“. Then the mind goes back to the European Championships to face Italy:”We did not have the opportunity to compete with high-level national teams but we challenged nationals with a precise game idea. And there we imposed our game. It is a good business card for the European Championship, the project is taking shape more and more. There are races where we will have to suffer. but we know how to do it. The group is healthy, there is enthusiasm, talents, young people, experience. There is the right mix, the coach and president did a great job. When I entered here on Monday I breathed a positive air and we have to carry it on until the last day of the European Championship, let’s hope“. Of the differences between Antonio Conte and Roberto Mancini, both national team coaches, explains: “With Conte there were very specific rules, as a motivator he is the best in the world. With Mancini we have found enthusiasm, lightheartedness and talent. They are two number one coaches. In 2016 it was a great European that ended on penalties against Germany, I hope to do better than the last European. We have young people who have gained experience to compete on a European level“.
Bonucci: “It’s another sport with the fans”
Of Turkey, where his teammate Demiral plays, Bonucci says: “They deserve respect. They have shown, against France, that they are solid, that they know what they want. They have talent, from Calhanoglu to Under, from Demiral to Yilmaz who led Lille to win Ligue 1. They are an interesting team, growing, there will be a lot of team work to do. I talked to Hakan (Calhanoglu, n.d.r.) e Merih (Demiral, ndr), I saw them loaded: they are two friends, we talk often, we laughed and talked. Merih said she won’t let me score“. Bonucci paws for find the fans in the stands at the Olimpico in Rome, as already happened in the Italian Cup final in Reggio Emilia: “It is another sport. Playing with the fans, with the passionate part of football, with those who push and help you, is something else entirely. Finally we will return to the stadium with many fans. I’m sure it will be a whole different atmosphere and we hope to bring joy to our fans. I close my eyes and think of the 15,000 who will sing the hymn on Friday and this puts me charge and adrenaline, I would take the field already now“.
Bonucci and Covid: “Now I feel myself”
Asked about the European Championship as a personal redemption after a difficult season with Juve, Bonucci replies: “However, we took home the minimum goals, two trophies and the Champions League qualification. There have been problems that can happen to anyone, but Pirlo deserves credit for managing so many champions. Coming back here made me feel young, with enthusiasm and desire. For me, after Covid, the last month and a half has been difficult, but I resented myself again this week. If I feel like myself, I can make my contribution “.
At the end of the press conference Bonucci gives his interpretation of Moise Kean’s exclusion from the squad: “They are choices of the coach. There has never been anyone out of the pack. Everyone behaved in an excellent way, I think it was a technical choice. No one in this group has ever disrespected rules and people. Perhaps for the first time there has been no one who has gone out of line. I have known Kean for several years, he alternates moments in which he seems the best in the world to some in which he lives his world, but, for the rest, during the Sardinian retreat, he was ready to get involved“.