Leonardo Bonucci leaving Juventus is a surprise.
Over the last seven years, supporters and observers of the Bianconeri have watched him grow from a timid, error-prone youngster into one of the most accomplished and admired central defenders in Europe.
Over that same time, the 30-year-old has also matured into a leader, organising the backline, holding his team-mates accountable and occasionally even captaining the side.
Bonucci captaining Juventus in the absence of Gigi Buffon last season
Yet on Friday morning, it seems he left Juve’s training ground for the last time.
Even more shocking than his departure is the destination. Here is a player that Pep Guardiola – a coach who now has the vast wealth of Manchester City behind him – labelled one of his “all-time favourites.”
Antonio Conte is spending his summer diving into Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s vast pockets to reinforce his own squad, he too certainly would not object to seeing Bonucci arrive at Stamford Bridge.
Yet somehow he’s on his way to joining AC Milan instead.
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the entire saga is the fact all Juve asked for was €40 million.
Yes, while the Bianconeri have seeming turned down bids of almost €70 million over the last twelve months, Gianluca Di Marzio and Italy’s other transfer experts insist they requested just over half that sum from the San Siro outfit.
Deal taking Bonucci to AC Milan from Juventus to be agreed today. £35m fee. Incredible deal for Milan, even though he's 30— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) July 14, 2017
Giving away the best central defender in the world for €40 million is unforgivably bad business, made worse by the complete wall of silence behind which this deal has been conducted.
Over the last 24 hours, every media outlet has been discussing the proposed move almost exclusively, and rightly so given the magnitude of what it signifies for both clubs and Bonucci himself.
But Juventus have not offered a single comment on the subject, no denial, no explanation, nothing. As a result the speculation spiralled out of control, with the arguments he clearly had with Max Allegri last term cited as major factors in the decision to leave Turin.
Has the relationship between such an experienced and open-minded Coach and a man he identified as a future club captain truly become so toxic over two incidents?
Given the number of times Allegri has exploded on the touchline over what he has witnessed on the field, would he really be unable to manage Bonucci simply because he questioned a substitution and was unhappy at half-time in Cardiff?
That Champions League final was a complete collapse on every level after the break, but Juventus know what it takes to win that trophy.
They’ve regrouped and relaxed over the summer, adding a simply brilliant signing in Douglas Costa and will be among the very small group of teams given a realistic chance of lifting the trophy at the end of 2017/18.
Over the next weeks and months further explanations and justifications will emerge, but what will ultimately remain is that the Bianconeri will be weaker without Bonucci than they would be with him.
Exacerbating that is seeing yet another top player walk away, the Italy international following Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Alvaro Morata and Paul Pogba in leaving Juventus after enjoying success.
Each of those can be explained away quite rationally. Tevez wanted to go home, Pirlo headed to MLS and semi-retirement while Vidal went to one of the continent’s truly elite clubs. Morata’s departure was due to the contractual agreement with Real Madrid that saw him join Juve in the first place, and Pogba (not to mention Mino Raiola) simply preferred huge bags of Premier League cash to life in Italy.
This is different. This is a player who spurned the advances of Guardiola because of “a desire to stay and become a Juventus legend.”
But whatever has happened behind closed doors, the signal this sends to Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro is spine-chilling for anyone who supports Juventus, because if a stalwart of the side can walk away so easily, what’s to stop that highly coveted duo doing the same over the next two years?
Furthermore, the club have also remained stoic and ignored comments from Dani Alves, the Brazilian firing some stinging barbs at the Old Lady after he too walked away.
Clearly he did not enjoy his time in Turin, and despite winning a record six consecutive Serie A titles and reaching two Champions League finals in three years, the Bianconeri now find themselves having to manage a crisis.
Overcoming this whole situation will not be easy.
There will be no quick-fix and fans will not be fooled by the addition of Federico Bernardeschi or Blaise Matuidi, both of whom have been linked with a move in recent weeks.
Truly elite clubs – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich – win the Champions League and retain their best players.
So far both have proved beyond this current incarnation of Juventus, with Leonardo Bonucci’s shocking exit striking a major blow on both counts.