Since Serie A Femminile is still an amateur league, that means the league lags behind the ‘professional’ leagues in many ways. One of them is the fact that the contracts aren’t binding and that they don’t last very long.
After all, it was how Vero Boquete was able to sign for AC Milan in the fall of 2020. While most other leagues were closed and their transfer windows didn’t open until January, Serie A Femminile’s non-binding contracts meant that players could sign for any team in the league. And Vero did just that with Milan.
At the most, the contracts for the league’s teams last 1-2 years. So the players are there for the short term as they are still not legally able to sign multi-year agreements. And not having long-term contracts to hold them down, means that the players can easily facilitate moves to other teams.
In 2019, Juve’s Barbara Bonansea and Laura Giuliani signed contract renewals with the team. Those contracts were supposed to last for only two years. It has now been two years, and their contracts are up.
So, you would think that both players would have renewed for their teams now. After all, why wouldn’t they want to continue playing for a successful team that practically dominates Italy?
Well, things aren’t always as they appear and there’s more roiling underneath the surface.
According to La Gazzetta della Sport, Barbara Bonansea is being courted by Olympique Lyonnais. Les Fenottes have also had their eyes on Bonansea for quite some time. And like Juve, Olympique Lyonnais are experiencing an overhaul themselves. They have at least four players whose contracts are set to expire in the summer. Midfielder Saki Kumagai was one of them, and she has already announced her departure from the team. Forward Delphine Cascarino has yet to sign a renewal. Her future is also still up in the air.
Add to this the fact that striker Eugénie Le Sommer might be going abroad and Lyon have some gaps to fill.
With this in mind, it makes sense for Bonansea to go to Lyon. Though the squad will still have quite the talented roster and boasts the likes of Catarina Marcario and Damaris Egurrola, it doesn’t hurt to have extra options in attack. Hence where Bonansea comes in.
The forward has been courted by the team before. However, she turned them down to play for Juventus as she believed in their burgeoning project and is a lifelong Juventina.
However, the allure of the siren’s song might be too hard to resist now.
The Impact of the Loss
Both Barbara Bonansea and Laura Giuliani have been instrumental to Juve’s success over the years.
In particular, Bonansea has been instrumental to Juve’s attack. Her speed is key and their attack suffers without her. The forward has contributed six goals to their seasonal tally and has registered eight assists as well.
Her ability to carve space for herself and move the ball upfield is unrivaled. For example, witness her slaloming run through Milan’s midfield. Bonansea ran through the midfield virtually unchallenged, as the Rossonere had a hard time dealing with her speed.
Nearly all four of Juve’s goals during that match were due to the team hitting Milan on the counter-attack, as the team was too slow to deal with their opponents.
And Bonansea played a large part in their victory. One of her other strengths is the fact that she is good at finding space and making runs into the box.
This chart shows the number of crosses the Juventus Women have made during their games this season. It also shows that Barbara was on the receiving end of most of them. The fact that she’s fourth in terms of shots taken by Juventus players would attest to this. She also has seven goals this season and has registered ten assists.
Bonansea’s speed, technical ability, and ability to think on her feet make her one of the deadliest weapons in Juve’s arsenal.
Giuliani, on the other hand, is the capstone of their defense. Her skills buttress the fortress of the team’s defense.
The shot-stopper is not only the best goalkeeper in Italy but she’s also one of the best in the world. Last year, she was voted as one of the top seven goalkeepers in the world by the IFFHS. To date, she is the only Italian woman to consistently make the organization’s top ten lists.
So far this season, she’s kept eleven clean sheets and has only let in seven goals. She has also stopped a total of 38 shots (Wyscout). If Juve were to lose both her and Bonansea, then they’d have big holes to fill. However, even if they do leave, the Bianconere wouldn’t be completely helpless.
Juve still have a strong reserve of players that they can draw on. If they lose Laura Giuliani, they can just replace her with backup goalkeeper Doris Bačić. Bačić is quite the strong keeper herself and is more than capable of filling the void that Giuliani will leave behind. Juve can also draw on their youth reserves and recall their players on loan, most notably Benedetta Glionna and Sofia Cantore.
The Bianconere also have a strong primavera system that they can draw from. The team has developed a lot of young talent, including the previously mentioned Glionna and Cantore, along with up and comers Michela Giordano and Asia Bragonzi.
Speaking of Bragonzi, the spritely forward has also changed agents. She is now officially the client of Federico Pastorello, the same agent who manages the likes of Romelu Lukaku.
There has also been speculation that the team is looking to add strong and talented foreigners to their roster, as they really want to win the Champions League.
Still, while Juve might be able to replace the likes of Bonansea, Giuliani, and even Valentina Cernoia with equally talented players, they might not be able to replace their experience, leadership, and everything else they bring to the team.
And whoever their replacements are will have big shoes to fill indeed.
(Author’s note: Since this article was published, Valentina Cernoia has signed a contract renewal with Juventus. Bonansea and Giuliani have yet to sign anything.)
Rita Guarino for Italy
The Gazzetta dello Sport has also speculated that the current Juventus coach, Rita Guarino, could become Italy’s next manager. Her replacement could be Lyon’s former coach, Jean-Luc Vasseur. Vasseur is on the market now as France legend Sonia Bompastor will replace him as Les Fenottes head coach next season.
Like Bonansea and Giuliani, Guarino’s contract is up this year. So far, there has been no information on her renewal. The fact of which, just adds fuel to the speculative fire.
All of which leads to the possibility of Guarino becoming Italy’s next coach. It most likely won’t happen soon, however, given that Italy are set to begin Women’s World Cup qualification in the fall.
Italy’s current coach is Milena Bertolini, and she was instrumental to the Azzurre qualifying for the Women’s Euros in 2022. She was also the mastermind behind their success during the last Women’s World Cup. With this in mind, it seems rather cruel to dismiss her after a successful qualification campaign and just as another one begins. Bertolini has her critics due to her pragmatism and favoritism of certain players (and I am no doubt, one of them). Yet it would most likely be an unwise move to dismiss her at this interval.
If Guarino does replace Bertolini, it will most likely be after the 2022 Women’s Euros and before the next Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Bertolini was also once rumored to be in contention for the AC Milan job. However, she stated that she was ‘happy where she was at’ and did not want to leave the Azzurre. If she is relieved of her current job, however, then she might want to consider getting back into club football again.
Time will tell what happens though.
Barbara Bonansea teaming up with Mina Raiola and designating him as her agent most definitely signals a shift in the women’s game. And by Raiola taking her on as his first women’s client, it means that sports agents are beginning to realize that women’s football is profitable.
The same agent who can count the likes of Paul Pogba, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Erling Haaland, and Zlatan Ibrahimović among his ranks has now decided that Barbara Bonansea belongs there too. This is the first time a priestess has entered the hallowed grounds of a temple that was once reserved for the men.
It also signals a change in attitudes in Italy, as women’s football is no longer being neglected and seen as ‘inappropriate’ for young women to play. Now, it’s seen as a profitable venture. And this move is a part of the movement’s slow but gradual integration into Italian society.
This isn’t surprising, considering that women’s sports could generate £1 billion by the year 2030. Women’s sports also have more people watching them than ever, which is a testament to both their appeal and their ability to generate revenue. Italy could also be one of the fertile markets where the women’s movements can grow.
It’s also more than plausible that Mina Raiola is aware of this. And let’s get it straight here, he’s not signing Bonansea out of the goodness of his heart. Even if he might use it as a shield and proof that he’s a ‘good guy’ who wants to help women, the emperor still has no clothes. Rather, he’s only doing this because he sees Euro signs here. This is just another way for the super agent to make even more money.
AC Milan fans are all too aware of Mino’s underhanded tactics. The ongoing saga with Donnarumma’s renewal and how it has angered the Rossoneri faithful would attest to this.
Now, just imagine Raiola using his underhanded tactics and making people this angry for a woman. It also appears that we are getting our first glimpses of this, given that Bonansea has yet to renew and is now playing hardball with her current club.
It sure is a sign of the current times. It also means that we are close to coming full circle and this is as ‘girl boss’ as it gets.
The Last Temptation of Laura Giuliani
And finally, we get to the meat and bones of the matter. There have been rumors that Laura Giuliani might not sign a renewal with Juventus and will leave at the end of the season. The fact that she hasn’t signed a contract extension has led imaginations to wander. Her rumored departure was even addressed by a color commentator on the Italian network TimVision, during Juve and Roma’s Coppa Italia tie.
The rumors are beginning to gain steam and where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
If Giuliani were to come to Milan she would, no doubt, make our fortress even stronger. However, if she does join the Rossonere, then there is the issue of what to do with Milan’s current, number one, Mária Korenčiová.
Mária has had a great season and was recently named the Slovakian Player of The Year. To date, she’s had eleven clean sheets and has saved 45 shots this season (Wyscout). With this in mind, it would seem rather unfair to replace her with another goalkeeper, especially since she’s been so instrumental to Milan’s overall success.
It’s honestly like replacing your current wife with a newer, younger model.
However, Giuliani also has other potential suitors that are courting her, chief among them being AS Roma. There are also rumors that Real Madrid have thrown their hat into the ring. So it’s no guarantee that she’ll go to Milan. There’s also no assurance that she won’t sign a renewal with Juventus. Add to this the fact that she is a lifelong Juventina and that Buffon is her idol and well, you can see why she might hesitate to leave the club.
Like with all things, we’ll just have to wait to find out.
Since the season is still underway, its most likely that we won’t know just how true these rumors are until it ends. What we can say for now is that the rumors signal a chance for Italian women’s football in more ways than one.
The first and foremost is that ‘silly season’ for women’s football has now become a thing and it’s Must See TV. The fact that we’re all speculating about the player’s moves would attest to this. The second of which is that if these moves do happen, then it’ll create a period of transition for Juve as they look to replace two very important players for their team. It might also weaken them as the players they recruit might make them weaker. It could also lead to a power vacuum and one that the AC Milan Women could fill (especially if they get Giuliani).
So, how will this all end? We just don’t know.
As Blaise Pascal once said, “We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.”
And maybe, just maybe, one of these ships drifting on those uncertain waves will land on our shore.