Leonardo Bonucci is the crown jewel of AC Milan's summer makeover
AC Milan's activity on the summer transfer market has been well documented, with the Rossoneri looking to build an almost entirely new lineup. The club celebrated their "Magnificent Seven" of new signings after Andrea Conti arrived last week, but more were always coming.
CEO Marco Fassone insisted at that stage that they would take a step back, take stock of the situation and continue with their plans. Sales are still required this summer to balance things out and raise further funds, while the focus had seemingly switched to adding the final pieces to the puzzle.
Nevertheless, few would have predicted that Leonardo Bonucci would now be unveiled as the club's latest recruit.
It's a signing that surpasses all the others that came before it during the past two months, as this is a serious indication of Milan's intent moving forward. The Rossoneri have landed a serial winner, a ruthless leader and arguably the best defender in Europe, all whilst dealing a major blow to rivals Juventus.
Ultimately, it's a stunning and quite shocking move, with the turnout at Casa Milan on his arrival telling a story in itself. The speed with which the deal moved also left many taken aback, as just 24 hours ago many were laughing off the suggestion that the 30-year-old would be joining. Fast-forward to Friday afternoon, and the Italian international signed his contract with supporters rightfully stunned and delighted in equal measure that the club have managed to secure such a coup.
To add to that unbridled joy, Milan have managed to land the best in the business for just €42 million, which when considered and compared to the fees that have been spent on the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones and David Luiz in recent times, is seemingly another stroke of genius.
Circumstances outside of Milan's control have undoubtedly contributed to creating a smooth path for the transfer to happen, as issues at Juventus and Bonucci's desire to stay in Italy have been cited as factors in making the move.
Bonucci is now 30 but has shown no sign of decline in his game, remaining one of the most sought-after defenders around Europe up until a month ago, and can bring essential experience and leadership to this Milan squad to lead them next season.
Milan have signed seven players this summer aged 26 and under, and so placing Bonucci in the heart of the defence to lead by example as captain, along with the expected arrival of Lucas Biglia in midfield, creates the perfect balance. After years of mediocre options in defence, Milan now have their best Italian defender since Alessandro Nesta, a player capable of following in the footsteps of illustrious names such as Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.
With a minimum of four or five years still left in him at a high level, Bonucci will be an integral piece in taking Milan back to the top both in Italy and Europe in the coming years and ultimately, it's still hard to believe that he's now a Milan player.
Putting aside how important this signing is on the pitch, Milan now head to China for a preseason tour with so many new faces to parade as they look to build commercial partnerships to increase investment and sponsorship opportunities in Asia. Add Biglia to the mix and that will be 10 new signings this summer so far; another new arrival up front could still be added to the mix with names such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Andrea Belotti being touted.
This level of spending and hype really does pile the pressure on Vincenzo Montella and the players to deliver this coming season. Champions League qualification has gone from being an objective to a necessity with these signings, while some may well even be dreaming of a Scudetto challenge.
It's undoubtedly a welcome sight to see so many talented individuals join the club, but it's now in Montella's hands to link this all together and ensure that there is cohesion and team spirit to deliver results.
From a tactical perspective, Bonucci's arrival would suggest that a back three is in order next season. With Alessio Romagnoli and Mateo Musacchio either side of him, the trio offer quality and composure on the ball to build from the back. Coupled with Conti and Ricardo Rodriguez on the flanks plus Gianluigi Donnarumma behind them, that is a formidable defensive unit.
It has been an incredible summer for Milan thus far, and the Bonucci signing is the extremely sweet icing on the cake. Time will tell if there's still one more surprise up their sleeve, but the Rossoneri faithful can revel in the reaction created by Bonucci's arrival for now.
Sumeet Paul covers AC Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @SP_Calcio.