Paulo Dybala: A Juventus icon or a misused talisman?
Numerous reports have claimed that Paulo Dybala is set to leave Juventus after seven seasons at the club, with talks over a new contract breaking down.
Juve CEO Maurizio Arrivabene confirmed on Monday that the Bianconeri have decided to part ways with the Argentinian forward following '[...] the purchases made in January, with the arrival of Vlahovic, Paulo's position was no longer at the centre of the project.'
As a result, due to reasons regarding '[...] appearances, length and financial considerations' Juve will be letting him go, a decision that they reportedly made in January.
This will bring to an end a spell at Juventus for Dybala that has seen plenty of highs and also plenty of lows, from the dominant period of when he first joined, where he flourished in Italy, to struggling under new managers and being hindered by constant injuries.
Having signed for the Bianconeri back in 2015 at the age of just 21 for a staggering €41 million off the back of an incredible 2014/15 season with Palermo, managing 13 goals and ten assists in 35 games, it is fair to say that Dybala arrived at Juve with plenty of weight on his shoulders, especially wearing Andrea Pirlo's No.21.
However, he immediately showed his quality, having an outstanding debut season with Juve in 2015/16, scoring 23 goals and providing seven assists in 46 games in all competitions, including a run where the Bianconeri went 26 games unbeaten in the league, during which he scored 12 goals and provided four assists, as Juve powered through to win the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.
Afterwards, he started to become a fan favourite, with links to legendary Italian forward Alessandro Del Piero being made, primarily in the way he drifted past defenders with such grace, all while also having the cutting edge to finish his chances.
His success continued over the course of the next two seasons, as Juve maintained their dominance in Italy, and even made a push for the UEFA Champions League in 2016/17, only to be denied by Real Madrid in the final.
Dybala still outshone other players in his position in Italy, and even in Europe, forming formidable partnerships with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and while the other two scored plenty of goals, everybody knew that Dybala was the main man at the club, a talisman, someone to look to for goals after Carlos Tevez had left the club in 2015.
Despite this, for some reason his productivity in front of goal and as a creator somehow dried up in 2018/19, the reasons for this being a combination of injuries and of a new arrival, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The signing of Ronaldo from Real Madrid shocked the world, and while it was brilliant for Juventus to have arguably one of the best players ever at the club, it also meant a threat to Dybala, as he was no longer the main man in Turin.
Ronaldo racked up an outrageous 28 goals and 11 assists, while Dybala could muster just ten goals and two assists in almost as many appearances as Ronaldo.
2019/20 saw a great improvement in terms of performances from both Dybala and Ronaldo, as Maurizio Sarri became manager of the club, and while the Bianconeri stumbled in the UEFA Champions League, getting knocked out by Lyon in the Round of 16, Dybala and Ronaldo were utterly ruthless as a duo.
The Argentine was majestic on the ball, gliding along the pitch in his elegant fashion, while the Portuguese was prolific in front of goal.
Dybala got an incredible return of 17 goals and 14 assists, as Ronaldo retained his impeccable output, managing to get 37 goals and seven assists.
However, things didn't work out for Sarri and he eventually lost his job at the end of the season, and while it is arguable whether it was just or not, what it definitely assured was another rebuilding season for Juventus, and another manager that Dybala had to work to earn the trust of, Andrea Pirlo.
The season under Pirlo was disastrous.
They might have won the Supercoppa Italiana and the Coppa Italia, but Juve's run of nine consecutive Serie A titles ended as they floundered to fourth, while they were also were embarrassed by Porto in the Champions League.
It was horrible for Dybala as well, with injuries plaguing him for most of the season, particularly a medial collateral ligament injury that took him out of crucial games like the Porto second-leg, the Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter, and also the Supercoppa Italiana final versus Napoli.
At the end, he could only manage five goals and three assists in 26 appearances, only 16 of which were starts.
2021/22 was seen as a time of reckoning for Dybala. Ronaldo left for Manchester United, and given the lack of proven forward at the club, he was seen as the one to lead the club following the reappointment of Massimiliano Allegri, yet so far it hasn't proved to be the case.
His return has improved significantly from last season, as at the time of writing he has thirteen goals and six assists, and while he has led as captain on numerous occasions, he has also been blighted with countless injuries, failing to get a steady run of more than seven Serie A games without getting injured.
With Vlahovic now at the club, Dybala is now even less important in terms of goalscoring returns, especially since the Serbian is deadly in front of goal, leading to Juventus finally taking the decision to settle without the Argentine in the squad.
Given his poor injury record as of late, along with his huge wage demands, La Vecchia Signora might feel that now is the right time to part ways with their iconic No.10, in similar fashion to how they did with Del Piero, who left in anti-climactic fashion when his contract expired in 2012.
Despite this, unlike Del Piero, who was 37 when he left Juve, Dybala is still in the peak years of his career, with him set to be 29 in November, and if reports are to be believed, plenty of clubs from across Europe are looking to land his prestigious signature, including clubs from the Premier League, La Liga and even rival ones from the Serie A.
Whatever step Dybala takes in his career, it will definitely be worth keeping an eye on his progress, as he definitely has what it takes to be the main man at practically any club, as long as injuries and inconsistencies do not trouble him.