Paulo Dybala arrives as Roma’s new diamond up top

Paulo Dybala’s free and unceremonious transfer to Roma is a stark contrast of just a couple years prior. Just two years ago, Dybala celebrated his fifth-consecutive Scudetto with Juventus. Fans chanted for ‘La Joya’ across Turin.

Since then, the narrative turned on its head. Following the 2021/22 campaign, the Argentine international sat out of contract and out of love at Juventus. As time ticked away in the summer window, Dybala’s possible future destinations faded day-by-day. Riddled by injuries and patchy form, few clubs expressed interest in betting on his services. Simultaneously, high agent fees further alienated the striker from progressing in negotiations.

At the beginning of the rumor mill, his most likely destination appeared to be Juventus’s biggest rival, Inter. The reacquisition of Romelu Lukaku cooled Dybala’s speculation to the San Siro. The striker’s desire to remain in Italy seemed to be a futile dream.

However, Paulo Dybala found salvation from Roma. José Mourinho hopes to reignite Dybala’s once seemingly unstoppable form with the Old Lady. In doing so, he wants the striker to return to glory at the heart of his attacking side.

Dybala’s story of success in Italy

Disappointment and setbacks marred Dybala’s last few seasons. This does not tell the tale of his success in Italy.

After setting Serie B and Serie A alight for Palermo, the young forward drew interest from all clubs in the top flight. Ultimately, the allure of the Bianconeri and its recent domestic dominance convinced Dybala. Joining in summer 2015 for an initial fee of $45 million, Dybala had an impressive debut season in Turin. The Argentine racked up 19 goals and seven assists in 34 appearances. Consequently, he finished as Juventus’s top goal-scorer in Serie A.

The departure of Carlos Tevez freed up some room for Dybala to shine. Accordingly, Dybala solidified his role as a starter.

He was a joy to watch for all football fans, rightfully earning him the nickname ‘La Joya‘ – The Diamond. His majestic dribbling and wand of a left foot took Serie A by storm. With Dybala at the helm, Juventus won a fifth-consecutive Scudetto. The following season, Dybala continued his success. He played a major role in his side’s run to the Champions League Final. Only the previous season’s champions, Real Madrid, could stop the Old Lady. After an excellent campaign, Dybala earned the No. 10 shirt. This further indicated he was set to be the star man at Juventus for years to come.

Interestingly, this added pressure fueled increased success. Yet again, he produced a stellar campaign in 2017/18, even earning the captain’s armband for a few matches. Nevertheless, he withstood the pressure and once again became the club’s top scorer that season.

Photo credit: AFP

Dip in form

The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo shook up things at Juventus. The Portuguese star took much of the starlight the likes of Dybala and Higuain were left in the dust. CR7’s arrival forced Dybala out of position. The ensuing significant dip in form came despite the club’s domestic success. Allegri faced criticism for his deployment of the Argentine. However, Juventus relieved Allegri of his position due to a lack of success in the UEFA Champions League.

Dybala’s season under Maurizio Sarri in 2019/20 was a huge success. Many Juventus fans hoped that La Joya was back, with Dybala being awarded the Serie A MVP for his excellent domestic performances. Unfortunately, Andrea Pirlo’s takeover for one season did not tell the same story. Injury struggles made it difficult for the Argentine to find a consistent run of form. Then, Allegri’s return to the helm in the summer of 2021 did not spark much hope for Dybala.

Once again, the Italian tactician insisted on playing the forward out of position to accommodate for Ronaldo. Poor performances at the Allianz Arena, coupled with the rising force of Antonio Conte’s Inter side, marked an end to the Bianconeri’s streak of Scudetti. Bad news followed for Juventus after that disappointing season. Star man Cristiano Ronaldo announced his desire to leave the club in the transfer window of 2021. The Portuguese superstar returned to Manchester, and it cleared the path for Dybala’s return to form.

Unfortunately, injury struggles once again held back the Argentine. Heated contract negotiations caused further tensions in the background as the distance for a contract renewal widened. Unwilling to meet his demands, Juventus CEO Maurizio Arrivabene announced that the club would not renew their star forward and captain in March 2022.

Paulo Dybala switches to AS Roma

Dybala made his discontent with the club’s management very public. After scoring against Udinese, the Argentine stared down the likes of Pavel Nedvěd, Andrea Agnelli and others. Tensions continued to rise as the Argentine spent more time on the bench with the renewed form of Alvaro Morata. At the time, the Spaniard formed a tidy partnership alongside star signing Dušan Vlahović.

With contract extension talks at a standstill, the Argentine explored his options outside Turin. The media romanticized a reunion with Beppe Marotta at Inter. Also, both sides did not hide the mutual interest. At the beginning of the summer transfer window, it seemed certain that Dybala would join his boyhood club Inter Milan.

However, the shock return of Romelu Lukaku deemed the Argentine surplus to requirements in the forward department. Dybala’s desire to remain in Serie A hindered his interest from clubs abroad, with little to no links to the Premier League or La Liga. Outside of Inter, there were certainly other clubs in Italy interested in the attacker. Yet, Paulo Dybala only drew serious interest from Roma.

The rumoured exit of Zaniolo opened space for creative flair in José Mourinho’s Europa-Conference-League-winning side. Dybala fits the bill to perfection. With rising competition for a La Selección spot ahead of the World Cup, Dybala hopes that the legendary tactician will make use of his immense talent. The city of Rome is rocking in anticipation of the Argentine’s arrival, with the Stadio Olimpico set to provide a historic stage for a new chapter in Dybala’s storied career.

PHOTO: Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images