Leonardo Bonucci spoke of the benefits of Juventus no longer possessing Cristiano Ronaldo after his side’s 1-0 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday night.
Dejan Kulusevski’s smart header late on snatched all three points for the Bianconeri, who maintained their 100% start to the 2021/22 Champions League. Massimiliano Allegri’s side currently occupy top spot in Group H and are on the verge of qualification into the knockout stages.
The return of the grinta
Following a historically poor start to the new season, Juventus have slowly found their groove following unconvincing Serie A victories over Spezia and Sampdoria. A rediscovery of the grinta mentality that laid the foundations for their initial success under Antonio Conte and Allegri is beginning to manifest, with Juve winning their last four games by a 1-0 scoreline.
Such resilience and resolve often escaped them in the years between Allegri’s 2019 exit and 2021 return. Under more progressive and idealistic coaches Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo, Juventus lost what made them special during their reign of dominance in the 2010s.
The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo also played a role in the Bianconeri’s identity loss.
While the Portuguese icon remains great and as clutch as ever, he also posed several balancing issues for Sarri and Pirlo (as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also discovering at Manchester United). There’s no doubting that Ronaldo played for the benefit of Juventus, but individual honours were regarded in a similar light to the collective goal.
“We are playing as a team”
Leonardo Bonucci, the skipper on Wednesday night, commented on Juventus’ return to their vintage selves after the record-breaking victory over Zenit, suggesting the Old Lady are more together in the absence of the great Ronaldo.
“It’s true that after Cristiano’s departure, We’re more of a team. We are playing as a team,” the veteran Italian defender said (via @ForzaJuventus)
“In recent past, we had lost that characteristic of Juve. We were all playing with a great champion [Ronaldo] and wanted him to do well, so perhaps we lost that desire to all suffer and sacrifice ourselves together because we assumed he would sort it out,” Bonucci added, providing a reasonable explanation for their identity loss.
The Bianconeri’s collective cohesion has certainly been a major factor in their recent upturn in form. To beat the European champions in the manner they did was so impressive, while late victories over Torino and Zenit depict the inherent ‘never say die’ attitude that’s making its much-needed return to Turin.
Expect similar grit from Juventus’ performance in the Derby d’Italia on Sunday night.