Paulo Dybala, Juve's star playmaker and impending free agent, isn't exactly on par with players like Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, or Lionel Messi, but with 136 goals and 59 assists in 382 career appearances, La Joya (“The Jewel”—as he's affectionately known) is undoubtedly one of the most gifted attacking talents of his generation. Blessed with vision, creativity, aggression, and class for days, Dybala has made Serie A his personal playground over the past several years, winning five Scudetti, four Coppa Italias, and the 2019-2020 league MVP (among many other accolades) during his seven-year stay with Juventus.
Any way you slice it, Dybala is among a very select set of players that can (more or less) turn the tide of an entire club on their own; he's that good. And yet, for some reason, Juventus are letting the 28-year-old Argentine talent walk this summer, preferring instead to hand over a reported €7 million salary to Angel Di Maria, PSG's veteran winger and Dybala's Argentina national teammate.
Given his age, talent, and reputation, Dybala seems tailor-made for clubs like Manchester City, PSG, Real Madrid, and Barcelona; the clubs that make their own rules and print their own money. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Roma... our Roma... has somehow become increasingly linked with Dybala.
We can't say whether or not these links are simply growing in number or if the prevalence of these stories somehow lends them more legitimacy, but one thing is for certain: they aren't slowing down, especially not after La Repubblica reported earlier this week that Dybala was set to reject Inter Milan's overtures to join José Mourinho in the Eternal City.
No matter which lens you view this potential transfer through—talent, tactical flexibility, winning mentality, or that certain Je ne sais quoi that makes him a PR darling—Paulo Dybala is a dream signing for Roma's Mourinho Makeover, so if you already have visions of Dybala decked out in Roman red and yellow dancing through your head, don't sweat it, you're not alone. After all, it’s not every day that a player like Dybala—a dynamic scorer and creator at his absolute apex—hits the open market.
But just how far should we let our minds wander?
To answer that question, we’re going to rip apart this rumor to see how much faith we should put in these stories. Put in even simpler terms: With the biggest clubs in the world likely tripping over themselves to sign him, why on earth would Paulo Dybala sign with Roma, and what would it take for this dream to become a reality?
Why This Move Makes Sense
Point #1: Paulo Dybala is a Statement Signing
May 4, 2021: With my eyes still bugging from my bi-annual exam, I decided to squint through the haze and walk across the street (probably a bad idea in retrospect) to get a much-needed ice latte. However, before I could even think about which flavor muffin to pair with my iced beverage of choice, my phone, which had been eerily silent all day long, started erupting with notifications from Jimmy, who was frantically passing along the news that Roma had signed José Mourinho as the club's next manager.
But this wasn't any ordinary managerial announcement. No, this was the José Mourinho. The Special One. The Treble winner. Arguably the greatest manager of all time, and certainly one of the most recognizable. And now he was all Roma's. At that point, we had no idea how he'd transform the club, but the gravity of this move soon became clear as Roma dominated the headlines for several days.
As famous and as influential as Mourinho may be, he's just a manager; his influence is passive (or at least indirect) by nature. He won't score a game-winning goal or thread defense-splitting passes into the box, and he damn sure won't smile and laugh at defenders as he breaks their ankles on the way to posting yet another highlight-worthy goal. He can't do any of that.
But you know who can? Paulo Dybala.
Signing La Joya would give Roma their most gifted (and marketable) player since Francesco Totti. If Dan Friedkin is looking for the perfect follow-up to his capture of Mourinho, look no further. Signing a player of Dybala's caliber instantly gives Roma's latest project a measure of credibility that all the Abraham's, Xhaka's and Rui Patricio's can't.
Dybala is world-class and would immediately make Roma a team to reckon with next season and beyond. This is how you prove to fans, pundits, and opponents that you mean business, that the days of half-measures are gone.
Point #2: He Would Instantly Be Roma's Best Player
There's no need to get scientific here: Paulo Dybala is an insanely talented footballer. One might even say he's in the unicorn class of athletes. After settling into life in Italy as a teenager, Dybala burst onto the scene in 2014, scoring 13 goals and providing 10 assists during his final season with Palermo. And this blend of scoring and creating made him one of only 12 players in Europe's five major leagues to crack the double-double that year, joining luminaries like Messi, Kevin DeBruyne, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo—and he accomplished all of this at only 20-years-old.
Dybala followed that up with a 19 and 9 performance during his first year with Juventus, and while his goal-scoring has ebbed and flowed along with the Old Lady's tactical predilections, he's been among the most effective creative players in the game over the past year, ranking in the 90th percentile or higher in virtually every major (and minor) passing and playmaking categories according to Football Reference.
With players like Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini, Roma aren't exactly bereft of attacking talent, but neither of those Italian internationals can hold a candle to Dybala. The only question would be whether or not the club would give him Totti's 10 shirt?
Point #3: He Would Boost Roma's Profile
This one is admittedly a bit harder to quantify, but when you take that incredible athletic talent and package it in a kid who looks like a matinee idol, you don't really need to elaborate much. Dybala is young, energetic and a virtual one-man highlight reel. Linking him up with Pellegrini, Tammy Abraham and Zaniolo (presuming he isn't subsequently sold) would put asses in the seats and eyeballs on the screen. Roma would suddenly become appointment viewing for neutral fans—something we haven't seen since Totti's heyday.
Point #4: Need We Say More?
Roma have signed some incredibly talented players over the past few seasons, but by and large, they came with pretty sizeable asterisks or caveats. Some players, like Javier Pastore or Rick Karsdorp, came with injury risks, while others, like Juan Iturbe or Patrik Schick, were fresh off impressive seasons but lacked a track record of consistent success.
Dybala is fit, Dybala is fantastic and Dybala is in the prime of his career. He's like that old late-night TV rotisserie chicken cooker: just set it and forget it. Give him his Roma shirt, pass him the ball, and enjoy the show for the next five years.
Okay, that's all well and good, but are we perhaps getting too excited?
Why It Doesn't Make Sense
Point #1: Dybala's Champions League Aspirations
Dybala may have five league titles and an MVP to his credit, but he’s missing one crucial element on his résumé: a Champions League title. Juventus may have moved heaven and earth in their pursuit of that elusive CL title but they either came up short (‘16-’17) or didn't even sniff the finale.
At 28-years-old, Dybala is squarely in the prime of his career, and presuming he values the Champions League title as much as the rest of us, he's likely to join a team that can help him meet that mark. And that's not Roma—at least not yet.
Assuming Roma can somehow land him, Dybala would have to slum it in either the Europa League or Conference League for a year, biding his time until he's able to lift Roma back into the Champions League in time for the 2023-2024 rendition.
And presuming all of that goes according to plan and presuming Roma follows up the Dybala move with additional high-profile signings, how soon would the club be in line to capture European football's most prestigious prize? One year? Two? Five? Never?
We're not saying it’s impossible, just that...
Point #2: He Has Better Options—Lots of Them
Do me a favor right now. Open another tab and do a quick “Paulo Dybala” Google search and what do you see?
If your results were anything like mine, you saw stories linking Dybala to Inter Milan, Spurs, Arsenal, and Manchester United, among other well-heeled clubs likely to pursue the 28-year-old this summer, and that list doesn't even include your Real Madrids, Bayern Munichs, Manchester Citys or PSGs that are lurking in the shadows ready to throw tens of millions of dollars in Dybala's direction, not to mention the allure of playing with a host of world-class players.
All of which means one thing for Roma: Mourinho will have to pull off arguably the greatest sales job in transfer history to convince Dybala to leave those clubs holding the proverbial bag.
But even if Mourinho is able to convince Dybala on the merits of his Roma makeover, can they even afford him?
Point #3: The Cost
Prior to announcing his departure from Juventus, Dybala reportedly had a new deal on the table that would have paid him €11 million per season (base salary and bonuses), and while the club reportedly pulled an abrupt 180, even the rumored reduced rate (€7 million base plus €3 million in bonuses) is too rich for Roma's blood.
While Calciomercato claims that no other club has topped Juve's offer, presuming Roma has to compensate for their current lack of Champions League football, they may really have to bowl Dybala over with their salary offer—we're talking highest-paid player in the league here, folks.
Will it Happen?
The answer to this question is fairly obvious: no. Roma cannot afford Dybala, nor can they offer him a legitimate chance at winning the Champions League, but we may be asking the wrong question—in fact, this isn't even a question. Roma needs to do this.
After a decade-plus of tough talk and empty promises, Roma either needs to shit or get off the pot. Do they want to be an also-ran, a club that lives and dies with fourth place, or will they finally ante up and push all their chips to the middle of the table?
Well-worn poker analogies aside, with the Friedkins personal largesse and the club's general standing among the top two dozen most valuable clubs in the world, they should have the wherewithal to complete this audacious transfer.
And if you'll permit me to dust off another platitude, sometimes you just gotta spend money to make money. You can't be a top club without top players, and if the Friedkins want their ambitious project to be taken seriously, then they must sign Paulo Dybala—no ifs, and or buts about it.