The manner in which Juventus overcame their poor start to the 2015/16 campaign needs little introduction; the Bianconeri reeled off wins with remarkable consistency since their comeback began in late October of last year.
Even the reasons for the resurgence from Italian football’s grand Old Lady have been widely discussed, with previous posts lauding the form of Gigi Buffon (here) and Paul Pogba (here) and explaining their march to the Serie A title in greater detail.
Both have been absolutely essential to the success enjoyed by the Turin giants, yet when looking for an answer to the question of who is the one player Juventus cannot afford to lose this summer, the response is neither of those two men.
Simply put, it is Paulo Dybala.
The Argentinian striker arrived from Palermo last summer, with Juve’s official website noting that he signed a five-year contract and the two clubs had agreed an initial fee of €32 million with a further €8 million in potential extra payments “if certain performance-related targets are met.”
Dybala began to repay that investment immediately, netting in August’s 2-0 Supercoppa Italiana triumph against Lazio, and he continued to thrive even as the team struggled in the early part of the season.
Indeed, while Juventus may have been languishing in the bottom half of the table after 10 rounds of league action, the 22-year-old had already registered four goals and two assists. Then, of course, came the 2-1 win over city rivals Torino on October 31, since which time Dybala has proved to be an even more influential figure for the Bianconeri.
Three times—against AC Milan (on November 21), AS Roma (January 24) and Sassuolo (March 11)—he has netted in 1-0 wins, and Massimiliano Allegri has been emphatic in his praise of the impact made by the club’s latest South American star.
“Dybala is a fine player and very intelligent,” the Juve boss told Mediaset Premium last month (h/t Football Italia). “He enjoys himself playing in almost a trequartista role, connecting the forwards to the midfield. He has very clear ideas on what he wants to do.”
That came after the striker had put on a wonderful match-winning display against Lazio, with the FourFourTwo StatsZone graphic in the tweet below highlighting the scale of his impact in a match where Dybala was simply unstoppable.
Scoring once from the penalty spot and then again with a right-footed strike from Sami Khedira’s neat pass, all six of his shots against the Biancocelesti were on target. Dybala connected with 30 of his 34 passes—an impressive 88.2 per cent success rate—and completed four of the six take-ons he attempted.
Lazio, like most opponents in Serie A, have had little answer for the Cordoba native, who also impressed in the UEFA Champions League. Having scored his first-ever goal in the competition in the last-16 clash with Bayern Munich, an injury ruled Dybala out of the return leg. As the German side progressed, it was very evident just how much Juve missed the the Argentinian's creativity in attack.
Bringing enthusiasm and that touch of brilliance needed to win matches, Dybala has visibly enjoyed his first year with the club—something he discussed in an interview with Tuttosport earlier this month.
Asked if he could spend 20 years with Juventus and replicate the accomplishments of Alessandro Del Piero and Buffon, Dybala told the Turin-based newspaper that he hopes to remain with the club for as long as possible.
“Yes, I can picture that. Their story fascinates me: 20 years with the same shirt makes you a monument,” he said (h/t Football Italia). “I cannot promise it, because this is not only up to me, but it would be wonderful to win what they’ve won and stay at Juventus forever.”
Perhaps two decades will prove to be impossible, but La Madama should do all she can to ensure Dybala is wearing her famous black and white stripes for the foreseeable future, as he clearly is the one player Juventus cannot afford to lose this summer.