There is something about the Juventus jerseys I’ve bought in recent years that seem to have the same kind of thing in common. It’s not the fact that most of them have black and white stripes. It’s the fact that you look at the names on the back of the jersey and, a good portion of the time, there will be somebody who no longer plays for Juventus. They’re names that you probably all know, and outside of a select few are ones that moved on at some point in recent history.
I thought Paulo Dybala was going to be considered the next member of that group this summer. As the summer went on, you might have thought Dybala’s days at Juve were numbered, too, with rumors of his potential departure far outweighing ones that involved him retaining the No. 10 jersey in bianconero for another season.
But, as exit rumors came from all directions, Dybala was steadfast in his one singular desire: To stay at Juventus and prove himself under first-year manager Maurizio Sarri and his brand of attack-minded football.
Two months after the fact, these things are true:
- Dybala staying at Juventus has turned out to be the best thing to happen to both the player and the club.
- Manchester United needed to sign somebody like Dybala.
- Tottenham needed to sign somebody like Dybala.
- Dybala is back to being the Dybala we know he can be.
As we get ready to hit the meet of the early season schedule, Dybala is showing signs that he has put both the summer that was full of conjecture and speculation about his future as well as a 2018-19 season that wasn’t all that great completely behind him. And there was no better signal of that being true than the goal Dybala scored against Inter in last Sunday’s Derby d’Italia win. I mean, just watch.
Paulo Dybala gets Juventus ahead early with this beauty! pic.twitter.com/i5l7YxNQCv— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 6, 2019
There were glimpses last season of Dybala being the player he has been in years past, but with a role clearly different than the one he’s had, the player we saw was simply not the same. Point the finger at Max Allegri for setting Dybala up in a position he’s not completely accustomed to, blame the player himself or put pretty much every option on the table, but a season where Dybala scores all of five goals in 25 Serie A starts.
It was that kind of season that had people actually feeling OK with Juventus selling Dybala if the right kind of offer did arrive this past summer. The reports came in waves. The links to Manchester United only seemed to gain steam heading into the final weeks of the Premier League’s summer transfer window, a reported deal that was going to see now-Inter striker Romelu Lukaku head to Turin. And once that deal didn’t happen, it was Tottenham who tried to bring Dybala to England ... only to see that deal also crumble right before deadline day.
From afar, there were likely plenty of factors in what prevented a deal for Dybala from going through. Many of the reports speculated that it was both Dybala’s personal image rights as well as his sky-high salary demands being the main hiccups.
But all through the United rumors, the Spurs rumors and the rumors that he could even be in some kind of swap deal with Inter for Mauro Icardi, one thing remained ever present: Just as much talk about how Dybala wanted to stay at Juventus and prove his worth.
Come the end of the summer transfer window in Italy, Dybala got what he wanted.
And, now, we’re seeing that all of those rumors — as well as playing for a manager who loves him some attacking talent — has lit a fire under Dybala’s ass. He’s playing like it, too.
The goal against Inter was the capper of what has been a very good opening month of the season. I say month because we didn’t see Dybala prior to the first international break, as Sarri was clearly slow-playing Juve’s No. 10 into the lineup with only a substitute appearance to his name in Juventus’ wild 4-3 win over Napoli before September rolled around. Since that first start of the season, a 2-1 win over Hellas Verona, Dybala has been looking like the player we know from before the 2018-19 season, not the one that struggled for consistency last year.
For a player who wanted to stay and prove his worth, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
And after a summer full of rumors about his place at Juventus being in doubt, Dybala has show that’s the kind of chip on his shoulder he needed to get back to playing his best ball.
There just seems to be an edge back in Dybala’s attacking ways again. He’s not just able to get scoring chances for himself, but he’s also creating chances for others. Sure, he has only one assist in Serie A play thus far, but he could very well have a couple of more if not for the VAR-ification of today’s game. He has proven that the narrative that he can’t play alongside Cristiano Ronaldo is a bunch of hooey. (Although, still need to work on who actually takes the free kicks..)
But, above all, Dybala being Dybala again and Sarri being the man who is calling the shots makes Juventus’ attack, one that has so much potential and firepower when everybody is healthy and available for selection.
That might be the best development of them all after a summer full of so much uncertainty. Dybala fought so hard to stay right where he is, and now he’s making it look like the right move for all parties involved.