Cristiano Ronaldo’s presence at Juventus may have had a negative effect on some of his team-mates as they started to take wins for granted, according to Leonardo Bonucci.
Portugal captain Ronaldo’s three-year stay at the Allianz Stadium came to an end last month when returning to Manchester United in a shock transfer.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 101 goals in 134 appearances.
That includes a return of 36 goals in 2020-21, a tally bettered by only four players across Europe’s top five leagues when taking all competitions into account.
But Juventus missed out on the title in a disappointing campaign last time out that saw them only just scrape into fourth place.
The Bianconeri did win the Scudetto in Ronaldo’s previous two campaigns, but they never made it past the quarter-final stage of the Champions League in three attempts.
Bonucci has suggested Juve too often became reliant on Ronaldo – who has four goals in four games since rejoining United – to win them matches.
“This was the thing. The idea that one player, even the best in the world, could guarantee Juventus victory,” he told The Athletic. “Cristiano’s presence had a big influence on us.
“Just training with him gave us something extra but subconsciously players started to think his presence alone was enough to win games.
“We began to fall a little short in our daily work, the humility, the sacrifice, the desire to be there for your team-mate day after day. Over the last few years, you could see that.
“Last season, we finished fourth and won the Coppa Italia because we became a team again.
“If you had thrown a piece of wood in the dressing room before those games it would have caught fire such was the electricity running through it. We missed that.
“Maybe it was taken for granted that if we gave the ball to Cristiano he’d win us the game. But Cristiano needed the team as much as we needed him.
“There had to be a trade-off because it’s the team that lifts the individual even if the individual is the best player on the planet.”
Bonucci has spent 11 seasons with Juve either side of a one-year spell at Milan in 2017-18, helping the Turin heavyweights to 17 trophies across a 445-game spell.
The 358 Serie A appearances made by Bonucci since he first joined Juve in July 2010 is a tally bettered by only four other players in the competition – Radja Nainggolan (360), Andrea Consigli (361), Antonio Candreva (365) and Samir Handanovic (408).
However, the veteran Italy centre-back has revealed he nearly left Juve a year prior to that unsuccessful Milan switch when Pep Guardiola and Manchester City came calling.
“I had this dream of being coached by Pep,” Bonucci said. “The closest we came was in 2016. I was on the brink of joining City.
“We were down to the very last details then Juventus decided not to sell. We decided to stay together. Then I went to AC Milan.
“I could have gone to City but several things had to fall into place for it to happen. I’d also given my word to Milan.
“Last year, I spoke to Pep again. He wanted me but I told him: ‘Juventus is my home. I’m happy here. I feel at home here’.
“I wanted to make up the ground I lost by going to Milan for a season. Becoming a symbol of Juventus again is the most exciting thing I could be doing in my career right now.”
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