Weighing the pros and cons of Bonucci's potential return to Juventus

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No rumor is ridiculous anymore. After Neymar’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch to Juventus, reports of Leonardo Bonucci’s return to the Old Lady don’t seem so absurd.

Bonucci left Juventus only last year to start a new adventure as captain of AC Milan, but the collapse of that project forced a change of heart. Leonardo, Milan’s new sporting director, confirmed the Italian’s desire to rejoin the Bianconeri when speaking on Thursday, and that it was an idea Bonucci came up with himself.

At the moment, negotiations seem to be at a standstill. Leonardo is apparently asking for 24-year-old center-back Mattia Caldara in exchange for Bonucci, and there’s some disagreement over their respective values.

If a deal is completed, however, who would get the better bargain?

Juventus

Pro: Strengthening title credentials

Bonucci would add to Juventus’ already-significant push toward a historic treble. He would assist Miralem Pjanic as a supplementary deep-lying playmaker, and offer versatility in a back three or four. Juventus missed his presence at various junctures last season, and although Medhi Benatia acquitted himself well beside Giorgio Chiellini, the Moroccan international lacked a similar poise on the ball. It was often left to Pjanic to kick-start all the plays – a burden Bonucci would share once again.

Con: Mortgaging the future to win now

The costs of bringing back Bonucci wouldn’t strictly be monetary. Juventus would have to determine whether it’s worth surrendering a bit of the future to win now. Bonucci’s arrival would significantly reduce the playing time of center-backs Caldara and Daniele Rugani, forcing either or both to leave the club. If the pair were to stay, they’d face a mighty struggle to break a potentially long-lasting Bonucci-Chiellini stronghold. Centre-back isn’t exactly a position of need, either, so it bears asking whether Bonucci is a necessary risk to take.

AC Milan

Pro: Removing hefty wages

Milan’s financial problems are no secret, and with ownership group Elliott Management emphasizing a commitment to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations, cost-cutting measures will inevitably come into play. Selling someone with Bonucci’s salary – reported to be a league-high €7.5 million a year – would lighten the books and show UEFA that Milan are willing to make sacrifices to remain compliant. The transfer fee – which may not be all that high considering Bonucci’s depreciating value – isn’t the priority here. The move is about keeping the payroll under control.

Con: Losing a big part of their foundation

Milan would be stripped of the very player who legitimized their plans. Bonucci gave a new-look Milan side some much-needed leadership; more importantly, he made the club seem like a top destination again. His arrival had far-reaching effects beyond the pitch, energizing a fan base that had become numb to disappointment. His first few performances in red and black left a lot to be desired, but Bonucci’s talent shone through as he developed an understanding with Alessio Romagnoli. A move away would undo all that progress, and make the past year look like a colossal waste of time.

Leonardo Bonucci

Pro: Competing for trophies again

Bonucci said he was “hungrier than ever” in the days and months after his €42-million transfer to Milan. Perhaps he now realizes there are more opportunities to win at Juventus. Even with his help, the Rossoneri would face an uphill task in both Serie A and the Europa League. Belt-tightening measures would also jeopardize the club’s competitiveness, and Bonucci, who’s in the final years of his career, may not want to wait any longer. The grass is far greener – and the trophies more attainable – with the seven-time defending Serie A champions.

Con: Facing the wrath of disgruntled fans

Juventus supporters won’t exactly accept Bonucci back with open arms. He was the one who asked to leave after an apparent rift with manager Massimiliano Allegri. Bonucci amplified the animosity by celebrating his equalizer at the Allianz Stadium in March. It seemed like bridges had been burned forever. Maybe an apology would suffice, but Bonucci will certainly have a difficult time regaining the goodwill of indignant Juventini.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)