Massimiliano Allegri has said the "case [is] closed" with Paulo Dybala after the Juventus forward apologised for leaving the substitutes bench early during the Bianconeri's 3-3 draw at home to Parma in Serie A last week.
Dybala was dubbed a "clever boy" by his manager, per FourFourTwo: "He apologised, as it was right to do from a clever boy like him, to whom the club has given important responsibility—the number 10 jersey and the captain's armband when [Giorgio] Chiellini is not available."
Allegri's reminder to Dybala about his responsibilities is a timely one. The Argentina international didn't react well to being left on the bench during a period where he is struggling for form as he tries to adapt to a different role.
Dybala has been deployed in a position wide on the right during recent matches. It's not the natural position for a player who operates best either as a centre-forward or just off a frontman.
Even so, Allegri believes any problems Dybala is experiencing are about different factors than where he plays:
"The difference is that last year there was [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Mario] Mandzukic; this year there is Ronaldo and Mandzukic. He touches the same amount of balls, has the same opportunities. I do not tell him to be a full-back."
It's a strong and eloquent defence from Allegri, but there is little doubt Dybala hasn't looked quite himself playing more often out of central areas. The 25-year-old has seven goals and four assists to his credit in all competitions so far this season.
Those aren't dire numbers by any means. In fact, it stands to reason Dybala's production may drop off with Cristiano Ronaldo now in the fold.
The man who Juve signed for £99.2 million back in the summer is the natural focal point up top for whichever team he plays for. Approach play is tailored toward releasing the 34-year-old in behind defences and letting him finish off moves.
Ronaldo's arrival may have inadvertently interrupted Dybala's expect maturation into Juve's star turn. It's no surprise rumours are already emerging linking the former Palermo ace with a move away from Turin.
Premier League duo Chelsea and Manchester United are said to be keen after being encouraged by Dybala's argument with Allegri following the events against Parma, per Tuttosport (h/t Joe Brophy of The Sun).
However, Allegri appears prepared to give Dybala more opportunities to prove himself and make amends. The 51-year-old said Dybala could start, and even be named captain, for Juve's league game away to Sassuolo on Sunday.
Ronaldo's presence has strengthened Juventus' chances of winning the UEFA Champions League. Yet the squad's ability to boss Europe and continue dominating the Italian top flight will depend just as much on the performances of gifted supporting acts like Dybala.