Paulo Dybala Adding to Juventus Legacy of Zinedine Zidane and Andrea Pirlo

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2016

SHANGHAI, CHINA - AUGUST 08:  Paulo Dybala of Juventus FC in celebrates a goal during the Italian Super Cup final football match between Juventus and Lazio at Shanghai Stadium on August 8, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

There is little doubt that Paul Pogba quitting on Juventus affected those he left behind in Turin, a squad of players working toward a common goal but seemingly blindsided by the Frenchman's decision to return to Manchester United.

According to Tuttosport (h/t Goal), his former Bianconeri team-mates feel betrayed by Pogba's actions, particularly as it appears he gave them the impression he would stay at least one more season to help with the club's ambitions of UEFA Champions League glory.

One side issue to his departure was the fact he wore the No. 10 previously donned by the likes of Michel Platini and Alessandro Del Piero, with this previous post analysing the rich legacy of that particular Juventus shirt.

It remains unassigned this term after perhaps the most likely candidate—star striker Paulo Dybala—insisted he had no interest in taking ownership of it during a newspaper interview back in April.

"In any case, the No. 21 belonged to [Zinedine] Zidane and [Andrea] Pirlo and is worth a No. 10," he told Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia). "I have no problem in taking responsibility, but if someone stronger joins us, then he can have it."

That keen sense of history is to be applauded, but the legacy of the shirt sported by the Argentina international actually predates the two men he mentioned, starting from when squad numbers were introduced in Italy back in 1995/96.

Having impressed Marcello Lippi during a spell with Reggiana, Michele Padovano joined the Old Lady in the summer preceding that campaign, and the journeyman striker became the original owner of the Juventus No. 21.

While his time in Turin did not see a sudden scoring outburst, he did net once in the club's Champions League quarter-final win over Real Madrid, going on to convert a penalty in their final shootout win over Ajax.

The Bianconeri have not lifted European football's ultimate prize since that famous night in Rome, meaning Padovano still holds a place in the hearts of all those who proudly wear the black-and-white stripes.

Yet before the following season began, Juve's spot-kick hero switched shirts as he opted for the No. 11 and left the No. 21 free for a summer signing from Bordeaux who needs no introduction.

Zinedine Zidane's first two years at Juve were simply phenomenal. Under the guidance of the brilliant Lippi, he drove the team to consecutive Serie A titles while also reaching the Champions League final in both campaigns.

While Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid denied him there, further silverware followed in the form of the 1996 UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup, the 1997 Supercoppa Italiana plus the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 1999.

The departure of Lippi and some ill-advised transfer moves during Carlo Ancelotti's reign ultimately ended Zidane's time with Juve, but his 2001 move to Real Madrid would usher in a brand new cycle of glory.

With the money gained from selling her star midfielder, the Old Lady was able to bring in Pavel Nedved and Gigi Buffon, who became club legends over the following decade. Meanwhile Zidane's compatriot, Lilian Thuram, would inherit the No. 21 from his 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning team-mate.

Arriving from Parma with Buffon, the calm and impressive defender never missed a beat, slotting into the back line and winning four Serie A titles in five years while also reaching the 2003 Champions League final.

However, the final two of those Scudetti were revoked as part of the Calciopoli scandal and Thuram would move on to Barcelona, abandoning the Bianconeri and losing the respect of many fans around the world.

The No. 21 would remain unassigned as Juventus contested their first and only season in Serie B, their 2006 relegation coming when further punishment for their perceived role in Calciopoli was handed out.

Instantly returning by topping the division despite a nine-point penalty, many probably wished the No. 21 stayed unused the following year after seeing some of Zdenek Grygera’s performances.

Signed on a free transfer after his contract with Ajax expired, the Czech Republic international was a poor player in an increasingly bad defence. In truth, he narrowly missed out on being part of Juve’s worst XI of all time, per this previous post, with only the likes of Jonathan Zebina and Jean-Alain Boumsong preventing him taking a spot.

Somehow he remained in Turin until his contract expired in the summer of 2011 when he joined Fulham, but the video of errors shown above is reflective of his tenure with the club.

But Juventus would then go from the ridiculous to the sublime with the acquisition of another free-agent signing. Grabbing Andrea Pirlo after his contract with AC Milan ended in June 2011 will go down as one of the greatest transfer coups of all time, and the gifted midfielder would deliver yet more amazing performances in the Bianconeri No. 21.

Over four seasons, the Italy international played 164 games for the Old Lady and contributed an impressive 19 goals, many from perfectly placed free-kicks such as the one below against Torino.

However, it was his beautifully crafted passing which most often caught the eye, setting up countless attacking moves and always seemingly one step ahead of the opposition defenders tasked with closing him down.

Last summer he opted to move on, joining Major League Soccer side New York City FC. Taking on the shirt he left behind would be none other than Dybala, with Juve’s official website revealing he had cost €32 million from Palermo.

Signing a five-year contract, he quickly set about repaying that hefty fee, despite being shifted into a much deeper role than he had become used to in Sicily and the obvious pressure of such a high-profile move.

On his way to a final tally of 23 goals, Dybala scored all with all manner of strikes. Tap-ins, long-range screamers, volleys, penalties and even one with his right foot, he found the net on his debut in the Supercoppa Italiana and scored in every competition he took part in.

It was a wonderful return in his first season with the Bianconeri, with only Gonzalo Higuain's record of 36 goals topping his compatriot's tally in the league. His did so with superb accuracy, with statistics from showing he took just three shots per game in comparison to the Napoli star's Serie A-high mark of 5.2.

Now he will play alongside Higuain at Juventus, continuing the club's fine tradition of strike partnerships that began with Omar Sivori and John Charles, continuing through Del Piero’s understanding with David Trezeguet and onto the current day.

Yet it is also pleasing to see the No. 21 shirt continue to play a major role, just as it has always seemed to over the past two decades.


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