In Leonardo Bonucci, Robin Gosens and Kevin Volland, Union Berlin have added some top players. - © DFL
In Leonardo Bonucci, Robin Gosens and Kevin Volland, Union Berlin have added some top players. - © DFL

How will Union Berlin line up with Leonardo Bonucci?


Union Berlin have pulled off a major coup in signing Italy's European champion Leonardo Bonucci. How will they line up with the Juventus great in their ranks?

Bonucci arrives at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei following the expiry of his contract with Juventus, where he won eight Serie A titles and was a two-time UEFA Champions League runner-up across two spells with the Old Lady.

Now 36, Bonucci remains one of the best ball-playing centre-backs in the world, and fans in the Bundesliga and beyond will relish watching his long diagonals for the likes of fellow new arrival Robin Gosens to run onto.

As well as Bonucci and Gosens - who joined from Inter Milan - Union have added Monaco's Kevin Volland and Chelsea's David Datro Fofana (on loan) this summer. How will Urs Fischer fit them all in? takes a look…

Leonardo Bonucci made 502 appearances across two spells with Juventus. - AFP via Getty Images

The first thing to point at in terms of Bonucci's arrival is that his new head coach is wedded to a system which incorporates a back three and wing-backs, using a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 almost without fail since Union's promotion to the Bundesliga four years ago.

Bonucci will be at the centre of that. At 36, he no longer has the legs to play either side of a back three, but his distribution remains impeccable - he completed 87.5 per cent of his passes last season despite an average of more than three per game being progressive.

He is likely to have Diogo Leite and Danilho Doekhi either side, with Bonucci's arrival making it a zero sum game between him and Robin Knoche, who looks most likely to make way.

How far can this Union Berlin go in 2023/24? - DFL

On the receiving end of Bonucci's famous long diagonal passes are most likely to be Gosens on the left and Josip Juranovic on the right. Gosens is already two goals into his Union career after his brace in the 4-1 win at Darmstadt. Behind them, Jerome Roussillon and club captain Christopher Trimmel provide enviable cover.

With Trimmel's minutes managed, Rani Khedira often led the side out last season, and he can be expected to anchor an otherwise attacking midfield once he returns from calf injury. Alex Kral, on loan from Spartak Moscow, has been given that role in the meantime. 

USMNT star Brenden Aaronson, on loan from Leeds, and Aissa Laidouni join the attack from slightly further forward, as Volland might do having arrived from Monaco…

Volland was often used behind a striker - Wissam Ben Yedder - in the principality, but he could also be paired with Kevin Behrens in attack. Fofana's arrival from Chelsea gives Fischer an embarrassment of attacking riches. 

Behrens' place now seems non-negotiable. Now 32, he was 29 before he made his Bundesliga debut, but he has already added to his eight goals last season with four this, to take himself to the top of the scoring charts and his team to the top of the Bundesliga.

In Bonucci, Gosens and Volland, Union are beginning to add a calibre of player they could only have dreamed of a few short seasons ago, and all eyes should be on them this season as they embark on a first ever UEFA Champions League campaign.