Euro 2020: Chiellini, Bonucci and the Joy of Pushing Back

Barzagli, of course, is in a better position to analyze their relationship than most. Until recently, Bonucci and Chiellini were not a pair, but part of a trio, for both Juventus and Italy: Barzagli completed it, until he withdrew first from international contention in 2018, and then retired from playing entirely a few months later.

Each one, in that triumvirate, had his own role. In Chiellini’s estimation, he was the “aggressive” one, Bonucci was the “metronome,” and Barzagli the “professor.” “He is always in the right place at the right moment,” Chiellini said.

To Bonucci, Barzagli was the “example.” “Andrea is unbeatable in one-on-ones,” he said.

Barzagli’s interpretation runs along similar lines. “Giorgio is the type of defender who needs to feel contact,” he said. “He uses his intelligence but also his physical strength to deny a player space. That type of defending is increasingly rare now. It has changed a lot in the last few years. I don’t want to say he is one of the last great Italian defenders, but he is in that tradition.”

Bonucci, by contrast, is “more modern,” Barzagli said, better at “reading the game, understanding situations,” the sort of player that Pep Guardiola, the high priest of the modern style of defending, has described as “one of his favorite ever.” Matthijs de Ligt, the Dutch defender who serves as Barzagli’s heir at Juventus, admires his “vision, the accuracy of his long and short passing.” He sees something else in Chiellini. “It looks like he has a magnet in his head,” de Ligt said.

Barzagli has not yet decided where he will watch the final on Sunday. Nerves never troubled him as a player; watching games as a spectator, he has found, is a little more stressful. “It is because you can’t do anything,” he said. He might choose to watch in the sanctuary of his own home, rather than with other people, to help him cope with it better.