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Harry Maguire singled out by defensive legend over ‘out of the norm’ attributes that make Man Utd star world class

ITALY legend Leonardo Bonucci has waxed lyrical about “nasty and tough” England defenders John Stones and Harry Maguire.

And, let’s face it, he would know.

Italy legend Leonardo Bonucci heaped praise on two England defenders

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Italy legend Leonardo Bonucci heaped praise on two England defendersCredit: Getty
The Juventus icon hailed Harry Maguire for his intelligence and mental toughness

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The Juventus icon hailed Harry Maguire for his intelligence and mental toughnessCredit: Alamy

Bonucci and the recently-retired Giorgio Chiellini helped to deny the Three Lions glory in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Chiellini famously fouled Bukayo Saka as he got away from the defender — then Bonucci scored Italy’s equaliser and taunted England fans after his side’s victory on penalties.

But he likes the pairing of Stones and Maguire, even if they may never be as successful together as the Italian duo.

The centre-back, 36, told SunSport: “There are moments during the game when you have to go to war and be ready to battle in the box as if a burglar was stealing in your house.

“But I struggle to find a deficiency in players like Stones, who have won what he did.

“He’s a leader, reads the game well, has rhythms and is intelligent.

“He’s a technical player and  a nasty defender. At City, Guardiola saw a perfect role for him, to be more of a ball-playing defender. He makes mistakes but who doesn’t?

“He’s still young and has a lot of time to improve and keep winning.

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Bonucci believes John Stones is one of the best defenders in the world

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Bonucci believes John Stones is one of the best defenders in the worldCredit: Getty

“In the end, who decides if someone is the best in the world? The fans, but with all due respect, it’s got really whether they like you or not.

“Stones has done great things and I like him a lot. He’s one of the best in the world.”

Maguire has come in for lots of criticism but Bonucci says he deserves credit for his reluctance to let the b*****ds grind him down.

And the legendary defender even praised ‘Slabhead’ for his football intelligence.

Bonucci, who joined Union Berlin in the summer after 12 years over two spells at Juventus, said: “For me, Harry is an example. After all the stick and attacks he’s received, he still plays at Manchester United and is a regular for England. That’s indicative of his mental strength.

“Maguire is a rocky and tough defender.

“His problem is that he was paid an infinite amount of money when he joined Man United. But just because of that, can’t he occasionally drop a clanger?

“He has shown that he’s mentally tough, has leadership skills, personality and intelligence out of the norm.

“Just like all of us, he may have some limits but he’ll be aware of them and iron them out to improve.”

Bonucci reckons Luke Shaw’s early opener in the Euro 2020 final actually helped Italy as it made England sit back.

That meant the Italians could keep the ball and wait for their opportunity to equalise, which eventually was scored by Bonucci.

Stones and Maguire both played for England at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup

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Stones and Maguire both played for England at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World CupCredit: Getty

He added: “Taking the lead so early backfired on England because they stopped playing and asking questions.

“They were content with what they had done. Maybe they were also scared of Italy’s quality?

“We were aggressive, monopolised possession and created a flurry of chances.

“England thought that by conceding us spaces, we’d run riot.

“In the first half we were frightened by what was happening around us but then we had a pep talk at half-time and raced out of the traps.

“We were ourselves again, had a different energy and I scored.

“We deserved to win the final a lot more than England based on what we produced.”

Bonucci trolled England fans by  screaming ‘It’s coming to Rome’ and urging them to “eat more pasta” after collecting his winner’s medal.

This was in reaction to feeling ‘belittled’ by criticism.

He said: “Many people attacked us during the Euros, saying we were not good enough to win and that we ‘only’ faced Turkey, Switzerland and Austria.

“My reaction was a response to those who belittled our achievements.

“Also, some of the things English players said touched our pride and motivated us to get revenge and win.”

Bonucci is no stranger to being accused of arrogance and that apparent lack of sportsmanship at Wembley just added fuel to the fire.

But the veteran said: “I have always been very confident in my ability and direct. Some people see it as having personality, for others it’s arrogance.

“People can think and say whatever they want.

“My ‘It’s coming to Rome’ and ‘You need to eat more pasta’ were triggered by adrenaline.”

The Three Lions’ future is bright according to Bonucci — as long as Jude Bellingham stays fit.

Having faced the Real Madrid star in the Champions League this season, he knows England have some player on their hands.

Bonucci said: “Jude’s adaptation period at Real Madrid shows that he’s out of this world.

“He is something else and will give Haaland and Mbappe a run for their money for future Ballons d’Or.”

Jude Bellingham has been outstanding for club and country this season

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Jude Bellingham has been outstanding for club and country this seasonCredit: Getty

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