To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. San Marino chose Massimo Bonini as their Golden Player.
Massimo Bonini was the obvious choice as San Marino's Golden Player as the only man from the tiny Appennine republic to have lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup, with Juventus in 1985.
As a defensive midfield player, Bonini was perhaps less flamboyant and somewhat of an introvert in comparison with his more illustrious team-mates at Juventus, but he certainly did a priceless job on the pitch for the Turin club. His tireless running in midfield – collecting balls and riding rough tackles – often made it easier for his colleagues to manufacture chances and avoid trouble. His bulging trophy cabinet bears testament to the fact that hard work eventually does pay off.
As with many Sammarinese footballers, he started playing in Italy in 1977 with lowly Bellaria Igea, before moving to AC Forlì a year later and then to AC Cesena in 1979. There he had two excellent seasons in Serie B, making 57 appearances and scoring four goals and contributing greatly to Cesena's promotion to Serie A in 1981. He was destined to taste Serie A action somewhere else, however.
In the summer of 1981 Bonini signed for Juventus, who had earmarked him as the successor to the long-serving Giuseppe Furino, who ironically became his mentor as he found his feet in Turin. In spite of his youth, Bonini figured immediately in coach Giovanni Trapattoni's plans, coming on during the first match of the 1981/82 season against, coincidentally, his old club Cesena. He marked his Serie A debut by helping his team to a convincing 6-1 victory – the first on their way to a 20th national title and the first step for Bonini in what would be an outstanding career.
During his time with Juventus he won almost every trophy possible: three league titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985, one Italian Cup in 1983, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in 1984, and the European Champion Clubs' Cup and the European/South American Cup in 1985. He played for the Bianconeri from 1981 to 1988, making 296 appearances in total and scoring six goals, before moving on to Bologna FC for a five-year spell.
Bonini's international career, meanwhile, is somewhat strange. In the early 80s he played nine times for the Italy Under-21 team, as the San Marino Football Federation (FSGC) had yet to be affiliated to UEFA and so their players were considered to be Italian. When the rules changed, however, Bonini was not allowed to represent Italy any more and so had to wait until 1990 to appear in the colours of his home country.
Between 1990 and 1995 he made 19 appearances for San Marino, before assuming the coaching duties of the national team after retiring as a player. In 1998, when Giampaolo Mazza succeeded him at the San Marino helm, Bonini started to work with youth players. Although he has a senior coaching licence, he continues devoting his energies to helping develop youngsters at junior clubs and summer camps.
Bonini is a modest, quiet and reserved person. On the field he was one of these rare unselfish players, capable of running tirelessly throughout a match – somebody once called him 'the Marathoner' – without drawing attention to himself, and always allowing others to take the plaudits. But he certainly played a big part in ensuring Juventus lasted the course on their paths of glory in the 1980s.
Last updated: 2 February 2011
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