Bonucci and Ranocchia: The Contrasting Paths of Bari’s Fraternal Twins

In 2009, Antonio Conte achieved his first major accolade in his young managerial career, leading Bari towards Serie A. On their initial campaign following promotion, the southerners had some interested names within their ranks, the likes of Paulo Barreto, Sergio Almiron and Andrea Masiello just to name a few. Nonetheless, none was more intriguing than Andrea Ranocchia and Leonardo Bonucci, who were collectively nicknames “The Bari Twins”.

At the time, the two young defenders shared several similarities. For instance, they were both up-and-coming centre backs who held the hopes of an entire nation. On another note, they both owe a lot to Conte. Furthermore, the two were owned by Genoa during their breakthrough campaign at Bari. The Grifone’s former president Enrico Preziosi was undoubtedly licking his lips as he impatiently awaited the first opportunity to make a small fortune out of his prized assets.

The Split

Even then, the two men’s paths were intertwined. A host of domestic and foreign suitors alike were queuing up for their services, but Juventus and Inter had always been ahead of the line. But while many had expected Bonucci to make his return to Appiano Gentile, it was his Ranocchia he joined the Nerazzurri’s ranks, while his “twin” took the flight to Turin.

This is when the two men’s paths diverged, and aside from occasional reunions in the national team, the former teammates had become opponents ever since. Nonetheless, it wasn’t just their directions that split, but their fortunes on the the pitch differed as well.

Initially, it was Ranocchia who marked himself as the better “twin”, pulling off some impressive displays at the Giuseppe Meazza, while Bonucci was unable to display his prowess at a Juventus side that was almost as directionless as today’s version, if not worse.

Leo’s Rise

But despite his initial woes, Leo eventually cemented himself as one of the best defenders in his generation. It all started with Conte’s return to Juventus in 2011. The young man at the time was also lucky enough to have some glamourous company at the back, forming a legendary defensive unit alongside Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon.

On the contrary, Ranocchia’s time at Inter became increasingly gloomy as the years went by. Although he was appointed club captain following Javier Zanetti’s retirement in 2014, he was only leading the remnants of a side that had become unrecognizable amidst the post-treble demise.

Ranocchia’s Struggles

Unfortunately for Andrea, he couldn’t cling to the armband for a long time, instead passing it to Mauro Icardi out of all people, while his role within the club severely downgraded. During his last few years in Milano, he had become a mere benchwarmer.

But to his credit, Ranocchia gracefully accepted his role at the club, staying away from all sort of controversy, which is ironically the opposite of what Bonucci has been up to throughout his storied career.

The Juventus captain is a unique character, perhaps even an enigma on his own. During his years in Turin, he has amassed more titles than he cares to count, while also playing a pivotal role in Italy’s historic Euro 2020 triumph, scoring the unforgettable equalizer against England in the Wembley final.

Bonucci’s Ugly Side

Yet, the 35-year-old’s irritable persona would often rear its ugly head. Who can ever forget about the infamous stool incident during Porto-Juventus in 2017 following his dispute with Massimiliano Allegri, or the events that followed the Champions League final during that year which culminated in his brief misadventure at Milan?

Despite reaching the autumn of his playing career, the nine-time Scudetto winner still finds fresh new ways to create additional fuss, even when he has good intentions.

Last weekend, the Bianconeri suffered an embarrassing defeat at Monza while the skipper remained on the bench as an unused substitute. Yet, he still found his way to the headlines by forcing his teammates to offer an awkward sort of apology to the travelling supporters, as the players solemnly stood in front of their Curva for an extended period of time with their heads down.

Contrasting Endings

So while the Juventus Ultras were berating Bonucci for his ill-advised actions by releasing a rather harsh statement, Monza CEO Adriano Galliani was hailing “gentleman” Ranocchia who gave away 4 million euros in wages by opting to retire from the sport following an injury sustained earlier this season.

So the duo that started their respective Serie A careers in a similar fashion, ended up enduring two extremely contrasting paths.

Despite being the more accomplished on the pitch, Bonucci is still struggling to win the hearts of his supporters. On the other hand, Ranocchia never truly fulfilled his initial promise, but he walks away from the sport with his head held high after earning the respect of supporters and peers alike.

The old Bari Gemelli are anything but identical.

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