Juventus FC

Juventus can't afford to let Paulo Dybala leave the club

Max Cooper
Feb 24, 2021, 3:45 PM GMT
Juventus must not risk losing Dybala in the summer
Juventus must not risk losing Dybala in the summer | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

If you asked a Juventus supporter of the last time they boasted a team genuinely capable of winning the Champions League, they'd probably look back all gooey-eyed at the 2017/18 campaign.

That Bianconeri side picked up 95 points in Serie A, clinching the scudetto ahead of rivals SSC Napoli, who themselves put up a brave fight, notching 90. Between the sticks stood Gianluigi Buffon, who despite turning 40, was still the best goalkeeper in Italy.

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In front of the old brick wall, was his protector, his ride or die, Giorgio Chiellini. Mehdi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli were his partners in crime, creating the most experienced and canny backlines in football history.

The midfield was packed with talented ball-players and tireless work horses, while the mercurial Gonzalo Higuain led the line with his mix of clinical finishing and predatory instincts.

And then there was Paulo Dybala. The indisputable MVP of this team.

La Joya had hit his stride in 2017/18, and posted his career best figures since joining the Old Lady in 2015. Dybala's 22 league goals were the driving force behind Juve's incredible domestic form, and after their European near miss in Cardiff a year earlier, many were tipping Massimiliano Allegri's men to go one better and win the Champions League in 2018.

Silver medals all round for Juventus
Silver medals all round for Juventus | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

It wasn't to be, however. In fact, Dybala's lowest point of the season arrived during that elimination, once again at the hands of Real Madrid, as he was sent off in their 3-0 home capitulation at the quarter-final stage. A dramatic second leg comeback was halted in injury-time at the Bernabeu, and those dreams were pushed to the back of Juve minds for another year.

Despite the part he played in their European demise, one thing was clear: Dybala was Juventus' golden ticket towards achieving Champions League glory. His vision, keen eye for a pass and ability to position himself in the right place at the right time to sweep the ball home with that cultured left foot was unrivalled in Italy, and his talents were being sought after by Europe's biggest clubs.

The only way was up for this perfect duo.

Ever since the curtain fell on the 2017/18 campaign though, Dybala's influence on the team has waned dramatically. Juve opted not to build the team around him, but to sign Cristiano Ronaldo instead, forcing La Joya to hand over the title of crown jewel to the Portuguese star.

Ronaldo and Dybala struck up a good partnership together
Ronaldo and Dybala struck up a good partnership together | Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

It's no coincidence then, that the further Juventus have dropped out of European contention, the less integral Dybala has become to their plans.

For a player of his quality and standing in the game, it's far from what he deserves. And he knows what he deserves, hence the current deadlock in contract talks between the Argentine and Juventus. The consequences of this stalemate are clear: fail to sign a new contract, and Dybala will leave Turin in the summer - Juve wouldn't dream of letting him depart for nothing six months later.

Secretly, neither party wants this outcome to come to fruition. Dybala sees himself as the present and future of this team, and Juve themselves know how valuable he is to their plans - or at least they should do.

The number 10 is a unique footballer - someone who can change a game in an instant, unlock defences which sit deep and wait to be breached, and conjure magic from thin air. And he can do it against the top sides, too.

Dybala's unforgettable moments often arrive when Juventus need him most: the brace against Barcelona in 2017, the 93rd minute winner against Lazio to swing the 2018 title in their favour, or key goals in victories over Milan, Inter and Atalanta in 2019/20.

He is a man made for the big moments, and that is a trait desperately scarce in this current Juve side.

And while I Bianconeri may be considering just how much Dybala is worth to them - especially during his troubling period of injuries - they should be quick to remember that there are very few players of his profile left in the game.

What Andrea Pirlo's side lacks more than anything, alongside their need for a playmaking midfielder, is a forward who can invent, occupy pockets of space which otherwise go unattended, and score a variety of goals.

Be it long range curlers, late runs into the box and first-time finishes, or the imagination to do something typically unthinkable, Juve already possess the man they require to turn games in their favour - they just don't know how to maximise his impact on proceedings.

Pirlo must figure this one out fast. Wasting Dybala's talents is a bigger crime than losing the league title to the current Inter side.

Off the pitch, Dybala is a major money-spinner for the Old Lady, too. A club which took the financial risks to sign Ronaldo, mainly because of the income and global interest he would accrue, must be aware of how priceless la Joya is to them.

His reputation as one of South America's biggest stars goes before him, and any club lucky enough to snatch his services would land on a genuine cash bomb, waiting to explode in sponsorships and shirt sales.

The iconic celebration
The iconic celebration | Chris Ricco/Getty Images

Lose the player, and you lose so much more than the goals on the pitch. You lose an entire franchise - all for a cut price, too.

The clock is ticking for I Bianconeri to get this mess sorted. Sporting director Fabio Paratici knows the months are slipping away for him to reach an agreement with Dybala and pass the responsibility of the team onto his shoulders. The forward has the potential to be a leader in this side, and most importantly, to be the answer to all of Juventus' questions.

They just need to swallow their pride and accept it.