Dybala and Higuain Look to Emulate Juventus' Legendary Strike Partnerships

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistOctober 7, 2016

EMPOLI, ITALY - OCTOBER 02: Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala during the Serie A match between Empoli FC and Juventus FC at Stadio Carlo Castellani on October 2, 2016 in Empoli, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Paulo Dybala enjoyed a sensational first season at Juventus, adapting quickly after his move from Palermo in June 2015 and coping with the pressure that comes with playing for one of European football’s biggest clubs.

Yet even after watching their newest star explode with a career-high 19 league goals, the Bianconeri were not satisfied with their attack and opted to make another major investment just 12 months later.

Gonzalo Higuain—whose 36 goals in 2015/16 made him the only player in Serie A to outscore Dybala—arrived at a cost of €90 million, according to Juve’s official website. He has already begun to repay that fee.

The prospect of seeing the two Argentina internationals in tandem instantly struck a chord with Paolo Rossi, the former Juve striker and 1982 FIFA World Cup winner telling La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) how good he thought the duo could be:

Higuain will score less at Juve, certainly, and will have to share the goals with Paulo Dybala, but I don’t think it’ll be that big a difference. He is at the height of his powers and will settle in quickly.

Dybala is extraordinary and can play alongside anyone, so I’m sure he’ll form a crazy partnership with Higuain. They can become one of the best strike partnerships in Bianconeri history.

Given the sheer talent that has donned those famous black-and-white stripes, that is a bold claim, with some of the finest forwards ever to play the game having represented the club during its near-119-year history.

Rossi is among their number, but even before his highly successful spell with the Old Lady, she had already benefitted from some extremely prolific attacking partnerships, with one duo in particular standing out.

"I wish I'd seen him playing in his prime with Juventus," Leeds United legend Eddie Gray remarked at the funeral of John Charles per the Guardian. "And I wish I'd seen him playing with Omar Sivori."

Gray is not alone in that sentiment, with Charles and Sivori mythical figures for Juventus fans of all ages. The Welshman was a beast of a player: tall, strong and powerful, capable of scoring goals with either foot or his head, dominating defenders whenever the ball was in the air.

He arrived in the summer of 1957, with Sivori following soon after. The two men struck up a superb relationship. Charles scored goals at a remarkable rate—108 in 155 appearances to be exact—with many laid on by the genius of his new sidekick.

Indeed, if Charles took the honour of being Serie A’s leading scorer in their first season together, it was due in no small part to the Argentinian No. 10. They won the Scudetto in their first campaign together, ending Juventus' six-year drought, and they added two more in the following four seasons, as well as two Coppa Italias.

While Charles was the Gentle Giant, Sivori was a firebrand, audaciously nutmegging defenders and repeatedly embarrassing them with a devastating array of tricks he delighted in pulling off.

He was a gifted player, capable of the most breathtaking moments of skill, and it was no surprise when he was named European Footballer of the Year in 1961, the first Juventus player to be given the honour.

Their partnership was broken up when Charles returned to Leeds United in 1962. Sivori left for Napoli in 1965, with the Bianconeri waiting many years for a duo to rival that original pair. The likes of Roberto Bettega and Zibi Boniek shone in the 1980s alongside Rossi, but their success owed far more to the magic of Michel Platini.

After the Frenchman retired in 1987, Juventus struggled in the shadow of Silvio Berlusconi’s mighty AC Milan, going almost a decade without winning a title before the 1994/95 campaign ended their long wait for glory.

Roberto Baggio had inherited the No. 10 shirt that once belonged to Sivori and Platini, but ahead of the trequartista were two strikers who need little introduction. Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli were both at their best, each playing a vital role as the Bianconeri won the Scudetto by an astonishing 10 points.

Vialli scored 17 times in Serie A and Ravanelli added 15, the latter bagging six more in the Coppa Italia as Juve won a domestic double for only the second time. That the first came in 1959/60 was perhaps no coincidence, the two strikers matching the earlier accomplishment of Charles and Sivori.

The following season saw coach Marcello Lippi turn his tandem into a trio, selling Baggio and adding Alessandro Del Piero to the mix, a move that helped the Bianconeri clinch the UEFA Champions League in 1996.

Vialli and Ravanelli then departed for England, their young team-mate subsequently going through a series of strike partners but never truly clicking with anyone else. The likes of Christian Vieri, Alen Boksic and Filippo Inzaghi passed through, but none hit it off with Del Piero as he suffered a series of injuries.

Then came the blockbuster summer of 2001. Zinedine Zidane was sold to Real Madrid and Inzaghi to AC Milan, with the likes of Gigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and Lilian Thuram arriving to replace them.

Yet those moves also created space for a player who had arrived 12 months earlier but had largely sat on the sidelines. David Trezeguet would capitalise on his opportunity in spectacular fashion, netting 24 league goals to share leading-scorer honours with Dario Hubner of Piacenza.

Four Serie A titles, a Champions League final and even the Serie B crown in 2006/07 would follow. Del Piero became Juve’s all-time leading goalscorer, but no foreign player can match Trezeguet’s tally of 171, overtaking the previous record-holder, Sivori.

That perfectly balanced duo soon moved on as former team-mate Antonio Conte became coach, the retired midfielder winning titles with the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic in attack, his midfield often carrying the scoring burden.

Then the club signed both Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez, a little-and-large partnership that evoked memories of Charles and Sivori, but it only lasted one year, as Alvaro Morata replaced his compatriot in the starting XI.

Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez.
Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez.MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

He fired the Bianconeri into the Champions League final in 2015 before moving back to Real Madrid this past summer, bringing the story full circle, as Higuain and Dybala look to live up to their illustrious predecessors.

Netting seven times in his first nine appearances for the Old Lady, it seems the 28-year-old has continued the form that saw him dominate Serie A last season, but his partnership with Dybala has yet to truly click.

Injuries in midfield have seen Dybala drop deep in search of the ball, but once those issues are resolved, he should be alongside his compatriot, his skill eerily reminiscent of Sivori in his glorious pomp.

Dybala and Higuain have yet to fully click for Juventus.
Dybala and Higuain have yet to fully click for Juventus.ERNESTO BENAVIDES/Getty Images

Playing with similar joy and even mimicking his style as his socks slump down, this truly could be a devastating partnership over the next couple of seasons. Former Juve star Marco Tardelli told Gazzetta World (h/t ESPN FC) that they are “a perfect tandem.” Rossi went even further in that aforementioned interview.

"Higuain is a great player who guarantees an important step up in quality for Juve," he said. "Now they can really go on to win the Champions League."

Over to you, boys. You have a lot to live up to!

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