Paulo Dybala has given his first press conference as a Roma player and applauded the club for their growth in recent seasons. La Joya has arrived in the capital as a free agent and was presented to the media where he was asked about his role at the club, his history at Juventus and what he hopes to achieve with the Giallorossi:
Here at Roma you are joining a club where there is a very committed ownership, a coach who does not need any introduction, and a squad that has started a winning habit. Is now the time to raise the level of ambition; starting by talking about a title bid?
“I think that it is probably still early to talk about the title. There is a lot of desire from everyone here. Roma have won a major trophy [the UEFA Europa Conference League], something to build on with greater targets in the future. I think the club has grown a lot in recent years, especially with some of the players that have come in along with the coach. There are some big targets to aim for.
“Everyone wants to win and I believe that has to be our target too: to win match after match. Then, further down the road, we will see where we are and how we are doing, to focus on different objectives.
“But, as far as the title goes, right now I think there are teams that are a bit ahead of us. Nevertheless, we will put our heads down and work hard, calmly and with focus, and take things game-by-game.”
Do you feel like you were betrayed by Inter Milan?
“No, not at all. From the moment my contract with Juventus expired, my agents spoke with lots of teams and you guys speculated about many, many more. I have a good relationship with [Inter director Giuseppe] Marotta.
“A lot of teams were in contract but then, at a certain point, the General Manager [Pinto] came to Turin and a lot of things changed.”
Tactically speaking, do you see yourself as more of a second striker or a playmaker? And, aside from that, how important was the phone call with Jose Mourinho in convincing you to join Roma?
“As far as the first question goes, I can only say that decision will be down to the coach. I am sure that, based on each game, he will find the best solution for both me and for the team. I am ready to play in both positions, to play wherever I am needed.
“In terms of the call from the coach, it was a real pleasure. The first time we spoke it was along with the General Manager. Then one day he wrote to me out of the blue and we spoke once more. I have had the pleasure of meeting the club president and his son, I spoke with the General Manager, I knew a few of the players. I would say that the call from all of them, the affection they showed me, was really important to me.”
What are the key things that the club were able to tell you?
“The first question I had for the coach was about what we were going to be aiming to win. I like to win, he likes to win and here there are a lot of players who have won major trophies in their career.
“As we continued to speak, the coach and the club both really got across some of the factors that you guys will have already seen: the professionalism with which the club is working on things and the enthusiasm and energy that there is among the players and everyone who works for the club.
“The knowledge that the coach has and the confidence and belief the players have will be very important to keep improving and pursue the targets we have. I will try to always give my best and pass on all the experience I have picked up over the years, so we can continue to win.”
What has struck you most about the Roma fans so far? And, if you should score when you play Juventus, will you celebrate?
“I think there can only be one answer to that second part: obviously not.
“I am very curious to see what happens tonight [at the presentation event]. Thanks to social media there’s been a lot of contact, it brings us a lot closer to the fans and their passion and affection definitely didn’t go unnoticed, even before I signed.
“I know this club has a hugely passionate fanbase and the fans always make themselves heard. So I am looking forward to meeting them this evening.”
As football becomes more and more a physical game, you remain the exception – a player who brings a bit of fantasy to proceedings. Do you think Roma is the ideal place for you to express your qualities?
“It’s true that football has changed a lot in that regard; now you see players that are more physical and faster but you see less dribbling and less skill. But what matters is the final result.
“I want to win, everyone wants to win, and that has to be the primary objective. Beyond that then yes, I have certain characteristics that I have relied on my whole career and I will work hard to do what the coach wants from me. But I will play in a way that helps the team.”
What are some of the differences, if any, you have noticed between Roma and Juventus? And did conversations with Francesco Totti influence your decision at all?
“I have not been here long, I’m meeting lots of new people: I still need to learn the names of everyone that works around us, there are lots of them. But I’ve found the club to be very organised in all aspects; everyone is helping out in every way possible – both with me and my family – and so I’m really pleased with how I am being looked after.
“I saw Francesco at Samuel Eto’o’s charity game. We spoke for a little while there, in the changing room, but there was not the clarity about the situation that there was just before I finally arrived here. He spoke very highly about Roma at the time. But we have not spoken in the last few days.”
Is it possible that we could see the best version of Paulo Dybala here?
“Obviously, that’s what I’m working for. Always. Every day. I hope that will be the case. I am trying to get myself in the best possible condition in order to do that. There will be lots of games from now up until the break for the World Cup. So I will try to make sure no stone is left unturned.
“I have years of experience from Juventus, at a team used to winning and one where that demand is passed onto you as soon as you arrive.
“So I will try to contribute as much as possible inside the dressing room as well, especially considering we are a young squad: I will try to use my experience to help the team win and also help us stay positive and focused during the tougher moments that will surely come at points during the year.”
Do you think last season your performances were unfairly criticised?
“It’s normal that there are critics. Obviously when you are playing for a team like Juventus there will always be a demand for more and more. Clearly I would have liked to score more goals and play more minutes on the pitch, but unfortunately due to a few injuries I was not able to.
“I think that, how the year finished, my statistics were among the best in a number of different categories, not just goals and assists. Aside from the times I was injured, my statistics were up there with the best.”
Can you tell us a little bit about how things ended with Juventus?
“I think that [Juventus CEO] Arrivabene was clear in some of the things he said. We had an agreement ready to sign in October, but then the club asked to wait. In March we were told by the club that I was not going to be a part of their future plans. So it wasn’t a financial issue, as many have said. The club, along with the coach, made different decisions. That’s how it went. I told them that, if that was their decision, then I had no problem with it.”
Many people have suggested Roma will be the perfect place for you. Why do you think that is?
“I talked a lot with the General Manager, with the coach, and even with the President. They gave me a lot of confidence in the project. Knowing how they have built up Roma so far, I didn’t have many doubts.”
A lot has been said about this release clause in your contract. Is it, in some way, a show of confidence in each other – in the sense that if things go well the partnership will continue? And is there a desire for you to have a long stint at the club?
“I am only thinking about the pitch and about performing well. I think that this might be a question better suited to the General Manager, or for my agents. I am just thinking about getting sharper in training and playing well. Hopefully what happens in the future will make everyone happy.”
What do you think about Nicolo Zaniolo? How important will it be to keep hold of him if the club wants to chase the title?
“Everyone knows Zaniolo and his qualities and what he has to offer. I have spoken a bit with him and it is his choice. Obviously all of us want to have the best players with us. We know what he has to offer but I don’t want to insert myself into discussions about his future. That is for him to think about.”
You have signed a three-year contract with the club. Are you thinking about taking the No. 10 shirt at some point in those three years?
“We all know who the last player to wear that number was. From my side, there is a huge respect for him.
“I think it is also a really important shirt number for the fans. For me, the No. 21 is also very important: I’ve worn it for the national team and when I started to win trophies with Juventus. So I hope it will also be the number I wear while starting to win things with Roma.
“No-one knows what the future might hold, but right now I am very happy to wear the No. 21.”
[Image from ASRoma]