Italy, Juventus great Leonardo Bonucci to retire at end of next season

Italy captain Leonardo Bonucci has said he will retire from football in June 2024 once his contract with Juventus expires.

Bonucci, 36, made his 500th appearance for Juve in a 1-1 draw with Sevilla in the Europa League semifinal opener on May 11.

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"When I stop playing next year, it will be the end of a defensive era, a way of defending Italian style," Bonucci said. "I hope a lot of future defenders will see us four [former goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and ex-defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, all retired] as idols."

With Buffon at the back and alongside Chiellini and Barzagli, Bonucci was a member of one of the most formidable and long-standing defences in football at Juve and with Italy.

"Each of us benefitted from playing alongside the others," Bonucci said. "The biggest step was with [coach Antonio] Conte when he had the idea of playing all three of us together in a back three. That's where we won a lot of matches that led to those nine years of success. Together we achieved something that will go down in football history. But with Italy and Juventus the three of us have shown that we deserve a place on that list."

A Euro 2020 champion with Italy, Bonucci began his career at Viterbese in 2005.

He has won nine Serie A titles in his career, including eight during 12 years at Juventus, in his two spells as the club, and one at Inter Milan.

He also twice finished runners-up in the Champions League with Juve.

"I have to thank Juventus because I've had the possibility to come up against [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Cristiano] Ronaldo," Bonucci said.

"I've come up against some of out-of-this-world stars.. What I said to myself is 'enjoy it, enjoy it'... My character has allowed me to play 500 games for Juventus...Juve has always meant everything to me. Everything I've done, I've done to defend a shirt that is like a second skin to me. Wearing this shirt for me was like living for 12 years in a dream."