Bonucci: “We will have to fight hard and play with humility against Spain”

It has now been seven years since Leonardo Bonucci received his first call-up for the National side back in February 2010, at which time he was then featuring for Bari. A hugely successful stint at Juventus then followed, during which he lifted six domestic league titles and developed into one of the best defenders on the planet. His allegiances now lie with Milan, as he dons the captain’s armband and hopes to succeed also with the Rossoneri. However, his focus is currently on the Azzurri’s upcoming encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium against Spain on Friday: “We will have to fight hard and suffer,” said Bonucci to the press. “But we are ready to give our utmost to secure the win. We do not have any fear and we are eager to shock everyone. We do not feel like we are already beaten. We have all only played two league matches so far, but there are certain games that bring out the adrenaline and motivation in you, and Saturday is definitely one of these matches. Italy have shown in the recent past that they can play well against Spain and I feel the same excitement as Ventura.”

As for analysing their opponents, Bonucci was keen to highlight the unique ability of Sergio Ramos: “He is the best defender in the world,” Bonucci admitted. “I admire him a lot. He is a complete player and I believe that rough tackles are part of football for every defender, therefore one must remain within the limits. In any case, against Spain we’ve shown that we can do it when up against them. I know that we do not fear them, but obviously there is respect. We are aware of our skills and we know that we can trouble them. Obviously, if we win in madrid and then don’t beat Israel,   things won’t change much in terms of qualification, however I am optimistic. There are some similarities with the match between Juventus and Real Madrid, although they are also completely different. I think that Saturday’s game will be more like that of the one during Euro 2016 (2-0 win for Italy), or Italy vs. Germany in that same competition.”

Bonucci recently joined up with his Azzurri teammates at Coverciano and was also reunited with a number of friends from his Juventus days: “It’s always a pleasure to meet back up with your teammates at Coverciano,” he added. “Buffon, Barzagli and Chiellini remain my friends. Our paths are now different but we cannot forget the bond that we formed in the dressing room over those seven years. I learnt a lot from them and they helped me grow. Not training together for a month will not be a problem, we are a consolidated trio. We are all part of a squad that will threaten Spain and it’ll be an adventure.”

As an experienced member of the squad, Bonucci then discussed a number of the young players who are seeking to make an impact with the Azzurri: “In terms of the generational change, I hope to be a part of this squad for the next five or six years. Then, after us there are a number of interesting defensive prospects like Rugani, Romagnoli, Caldara, plus I also like Romagna from Cagliari who reminds me of myself.”

Speaking a lot about his past with Juventus and his future with Milan, Bonucci finally discussed the latest news regarding Serie A, that is the introduction of VAR: “We are at the start of a new era,” he concluded. “It takes time for everyone to understand it. It is not a question regarding Juventus or Milan and the controversies that we are used to, but instead we must adapt to this important change and we must try to help the referees get used to it as well.”


Squad list

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa);
Defenders: Davide Astori (Fiorentina), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Andrea Conti (Milan), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Leonardo Spinazzola (Atalanta);
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain);
Wingers: Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Antonio Candreva (Inter), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli);
Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eder Citadin Martins (Inter), Manolo Gabbiadini (Southampton), Ciro Immobile (Lazio.

National Team’s schedule 

Monday 28th August 
13.30 Meeting the media (coach)
17.00 Video session. Training to follow (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Tuesday 29th August 
13.30 Meeting the media (players)
17.00 Video session. Training to follow (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Wednesday 30th August
9.30 Training (closed door)
13.30 Meeting the media (players)
18.00 Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Thursday 31st August
13.30 Meeting the media (players)
18.00 Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Friday 1st September – MD 1
9.30     Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)
16.30 Flight from Florence to Madrid
19.30 Walk-round at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium
20.00    Press conference – coach and one player

Spain’s media commitments
12.00 Press conference (Coach and one player) at the Salón Villalonga at the Spanish headquarters
Adress: Real Federación Española de Fútbol Avda. Ramón y Cajal, s/n – 28230     Las Rozas (Madrid)
20.30 Training (open to the public and press)

Saturday 2nd September
20.45        SPAIN- ITALY – Santiago Bernabeu Stadium;  Referee Kuipers (Olanda)
Squad will meet the press after the match and will then return to their hotel

Sunday 3rd September
10.30 Flight from Madrid to Florence
18.00  Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Monday 4th September MD-1
9.30   Training  (first 15 minutes open to the press)
17.30 Bus transfer to Reggio Emilia
19.30 Walk-round at the Stadio ‘Città del Tricolore’ (open to the press)
20.00     Press conference for coach and one player

Israel’s media commitments at the Stadio Città del Tricolore:
17.30 Press conference for coach and one player
18.00 Training (first 15 minutes open to the press)

Tuesday 5th September
20.45 ITALY VS. ISRAEL – Stadio Città del Tricolore; Referee Bastien (Francia). Meeting with the press after the match