When Maurizio Sarri was announced as the Juventus manager back in the beginning of the 2019/20 season, what excited me the most was the possibility of growth that Dybala could endure under him. We all saw what the compulsive smoking tactician did to Mertens at Napoli, transforming him from a fairly efficient winger into a free scoring falso nueve. Having similar height, weight and style of playing, and; may I say a bit extra quality, I was sure Dybala could experience that kind of transformation as well.
Fast-forward to the end of that season and Paulo Dybala not only won the scudetto with Juventus but was also crowned Serie A’s MVP, developing an interesting partnership with Ronaldo and becoming more complete in front of goal but… is it enough? Let’s break it down.
Dybala scored 11 goals and provided 6 assists in 33 games across the league. Even more impressive is the fact that 8 of those 11 goals were opening goals, which proves he scored when the team needed him the most. On top of that, he played every 3 to 4 days throughout the mad end of the season schedule while recovering from COVID-19 and a few injuries along the way.
However, for a team intending to crown themselves at the top of the football world, having their bandiera and main star for the future sporting those kind of numbers, just isn’t enough… not even close. Dybala wasn’t in the top 20 of assists in the league and was only 17th in goals. You could make a point that Juventus still won the scudetto and Paulito was still made MVP of the league, but if we do a quick comparison with other MVP’s that same year, we realize the shocking contrast there is between them and our very own Joya:
DE BRUYNE – EPL 19/20 MVP
54 APPS – 20 GOALS – 28 ASSISTS
Goals / 90 min’ 0.42 – Assists / 90 min’ 0.64
LEWANDOWSKI – BUNDESLIGA 19/20 MVP
59 APPS – 63 GOALS – 12 ASSISTS
Goals / 90 min’ 1.11 – Assists / 90 min’ 0.13
MBAPPE – LIGUE 1 19/20 MVP
43 APPS – 34 GOALS – 18 ASSISTS
Goals / 90 min’ 1.07 – Assists / 90 min’ 0.3
MESSI – LA LIGA 19/20 MVP
45 APPS – 33 GOALS – 26 ASSISTS
Goals / 90 min’ 0.78 – Assists / 90 min 0.66
DYBALA – SERIE A 19/20 MVP
46 APPS – 17 GOALS – 9 ASSISTS
Goals / 90 min’ 0.46 – Assists / 90 min’ 0.25
Dybala had the worst season by far of all the MVP’s of the “Big 5” leagues in Europe. He had the least goals and assists, despite playing more games than both Messi and Mbappe. And while I understand that stats aren’t all in football, the level of consistency and quality the world’s best teams star players show over the course of a season usually dictates how far they go and how high they can reach.
Dybala has played under Allegri, Sarri and Pirlo. He has played as a winger, as a second striker, as a number 10 and as a false 9. Probably his best season was as a second striker, “Alla Del Piero” but Ronaldo’s arrival made that position improbable. Both him and Dybala operate better next to a pure number 9, so even if they played well together, neither exploits the other one strengths to a full extent.
This is his sixth season at Juventus and his ideal position on the field is not yet fully established. He’d probably thrive as a number 10, but fielding a trequartista forces the team to specific formations. As a falso nueve he doesn’t score enough and he’s completely lost on the wing.
As much as I was against that move at the time, I can understand Paratici’s thinking when he was close to swapping Dybala for Lukaku, in hindsight a front three of Ronaldo – Lukaku – Chiesa sounds mouthwatering, but now it’s up to Dybala to stablish himself and makes us forget about what could have been and think about what it is, the amazing player we all know he can be. Few players have the fantasy he has and when the ball is at his feet, even at his worst, we all feel something might happen out of nowhere.
This season hasn’t been easy for la Joya, playing only 11 games, scoring two goals and assisting two more in the process. He has been plagued by injuries and has been hunted by the shadow of the contract renewal for a while now, but that’s always been precisely his problem. Finding consistency has to do with mentality as much as it has to do with talent. This is the part of his game every coach has tried to improve and so far, none has been able to make him take that final leap.
I know some might say this is part of an agenda against Dybala for him to be sold, but it really isn’t. This is a cry for Dybala to do better, because I really feel he can. I would not demand this of a player that isn’t up to the task. Dybala has everything to be at the top: speed, technique, creativity and an amazing left foot. But he has to start taking the reins of the team and finally become one of the best in the world if he wants to be the star of one of the best teams in the world.
Patience is a virtue that not all teams can afford, Dybala is 27 now and he’s by no means finished, but as he’s currently negotiating a new contract, you can’t help but think that you can’t ask for patience while also asking to be the center piece of a project with many other champions waiting for their chance.
It’s time for him to step up and be the champion among champions or inevitably be sold for profit while he still has value. Let’s just hope for the former, for his sake and hopefully for Juventus’.
(Article kindly contributed by Juan E Badillo)