Well, I don’t know about you, but seeing all the fanfare for Paulo Dybala’s announcement celebration in Rome really made me wish I was somewhere other than my desk. The Friedkin Group pulled out all the stops for their new star signing, conducting his first interview with the club at Fendi headquarters and presenting him to a raucous Romanisti crowd.
You can see the footage of Rome’s reaction to Paulo here:
For those of you who don’t want to watch over thirty minutes of adoring Romanisti exalting their new superstar, a picture (or two) will certainly be worth a thousand words:
Just look at the wonder on Dybala’s face; look at the throng of Romanisti turning the night sky smoky with flares; and you might just understand how Dybala’s #21 kit has become the fastest-selling kit in Italian history, beating out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus kit by a wide margin. Personally, I’m still pinching myself that this move has happened; it is without a doubt just as big of a statement signing as Roma’s hiring of José Mourinho last summer, and with the rumors dragging Nicoló Zaniolo away from Rome slowing down considerably, Romanisti have to be thinking that the Abraham/Dybala/Zaniolo/Pellegrini attacking core might be the best group of attackers in Serie A and one of the best in Europe. As for where that will take the Giallorossi? Your guess is as good as mine, though at a bare minimum, placing in the top four is now practically a requirement for next season.
Here are some highlights from the Dybala press conference that occurred prior to La Joya’s presentation to the Roma faithful:
Here at Roma you are joining a club where there is a very committed ownership, a coach who does not need any introduction, and a squad that has started a winning habit. Is now the time to raise the level of ambition; starting by talking about a title bid?
“I think that it is probably still early to talk about the title. There is a lot of desire from everyone here. Roma have won a major trophy [the UEFA Europa Conference League], something to build on with greater targets in the future. I think the club has grown a lot in recent years, especially with some of the players that have come in along with the coach. There are some big targets to aim for.
“Everyone wants to win and I believe that has to be our target too: to win match after match. Then, further down the road, we will see where we are and how we are doing, to focus on different objectives.
“But, as far as the title goes, right now I think there are teams that are a bit ahead of us. Nevertheless, we will put our heads down and work hard, calmly and with focus, and take things game-by-game.”
Tactically speaking, do you see yourself as more of a second striker or a playmaker? And, aside from that, how important was the phone call with Jose Mourinho in convincing you to join Roma?
“As far as the first question goes, I can only say that decision will be down to the coach. I am sure that, based on each game, he will find the best solution for both me and for the team. I am ready to play in both positions, to play wherever I am needed.
“In terms of the call from the coach, it was a real pleasure. The first time we spoke it was along with the General Manager. Then one day he wrote to me out of the blue and we spoke once more. I have had the pleasure of meeting the club president and his son, I spoke with the General Manager, I knew a few of the players. I would say that the call from all of them, the affection they showed me, was really important to me.”
As football becomes more and more a physical game, you remain the exception – a player who brings a bit of fantasy to proceedings. Do you think Roma is the ideal place for you to express your qualities?
“It’s true that football has changed a lot in that regard; now you see players that are more physical and faster but you see less dribbling and less skill. But what matters is the final result.
“I want to win, everyone wants to win, and that has to be the primary objective. Beyond that then yes, I have certain characteristics that I have relied on my whole career and I will work hard to do what the coach wants from me. But I will play in a way that helps the team.”
What are some of the differences, if any, you have noticed between Roma and Juventus? And did conversations with Francesco Totti influence your decision at all?
“I have not been here long, I’m meeting lots of new people: I still need to learn the names of everyone that works around us, there are lots of them. But I’ve found the club to be very organised in all aspects; everyone is helping out in every way possible – both with me and my family – and so I’m really pleased with how I am being looked after.
“I saw Francesco at Samuel Eto’o’s charity game. We spoke for a little while there, in the changing room, but there was not the clarity about the situation that there was just before I finally arrived here. He spoke very highly about Roma at the time. But we have not spoken in the last few days.”
Many people have suggested Roma will be the perfect place for you. Why do you think that is?
“I talked a lot with the General Manager, with the coach, and even with the President. They gave me a lot of confidence in the project. Knowing how they have built up Roma so far, I didn’t have many doubts.”
What do you think about Nicolo Zaniolo? How important will it be to keep hold of him if the club wants to chase the title?
“Everyone knows Zaniolo and his qualities and what he has to offer. I have spoken a bit with him and it is his choice. Obviously all of us want to have the best players with us. We know what he has to offer but I don’t want to insert myself into discussions about his future. That is for him to think about.”
You have signed a three-year contract with the club. Are you thinking about taking the No. 10 shirt at some point in those three years?
“We all know who the last player to wear that number was. From my side, there is a huge respect for him.
“I think it is also a really important shirt number for the fans. For me, the No. 21 is also very important: I’ve worn it for the national team and when I started to win trophies with Juventus. So I hope it will also be the number I wear while starting to win things with Roma.
“No-one knows what the future might hold, but right now I am very happy to wear the No. 21.”
My biggest takeaways from the interview are that Dybala is thrilled to be somewhere that values him as much as Roma clearly does; that he wants to win at Roma, and win big; and that he wants to prove himself to Romanisti before taking on all the of the baggage associated with Francesco Totti’s #10. In my opinion, this was a pitch-perfect presser from La Joya, which makes a good deal of sense given just how perfect everything was today for Romanisti everywhere.
This move won’t feel real to me until I see Dybala on the field in a Roma kit. Honestly, it might not feel real to me until we’re several weeks into the season; that’s how big of a deal this signing could be for Roma’s aspirations. Benvenuto, La Joya. Don’t let the great expectations get you down; they come from a place of love and the praise you could gain for winning big in Rome? That could last forever.