Ronaldo, Higuain & Dybala: Will three be a crowd at Juventus?
With a World Cup that hasn't often made sense still ongoing, Cristiano Ronaldo restored some sanity by making a surprise switch from Real Madrid to Juventus. The deal makes sense for all parties, although a pair of acquaintances in Turin, one old, the other new, may not share my optimism.
Sami Khedira will, however. First among CR7's new teammates to reach out, he remembers his old teammate fondly despite having left the Bernabeu three seasons ago.
I was new, not quite a known player and, therefore, very reserved and shy. Cristiano entered the bus, came straight to me and greeted me with a hand. He welcomed me warmly and offered his support.
Paulo Dybala, perhaps not too surprisingly, was next in line. As an Argentine, you might expect him to be loyal to Lionel Messi. He did once admit he found it difficult playing with the Barcelona legend, however. On the other hand, he has also identified Messi as an idol. It's an obligation for every Argentine not named Diego Maradona.
Despite the welcome, though, Ronaldo’s arrival could spell doom for Dybala. If there’s any take away from the younger man's miserable international journey so far, it's that he doesn't like to play second fiddle. He is like a timid young chap frightened by better-exposed peers. While he seems a bit of an introvert, Dybala speaks up enough to suggest he craves the spotlight. He wants to be the one who makes things happen. How does one go about that when either of the Ballon d'Or twins is about?
He has always been this way. Palermo broke its club-record and still offered more banking in Dybala to succeed. The Sicilian club parted with Abel Hernández and Kyle Lafferty, their most prolific marksmen, to make room for the Argentine. The duo had notched a combined 26 goals in Serie B but left to join Hull and Norwich respectively.
For sheer talent and wizardry on the ball, Dybala is matchless. Seventy-three Serie A strikes in under 200 matches is no cheap feat. His creativity, ambition, and pull-a-goal-out-of-a-hat tendencies are matched by few. It's just his ill fortune to always be paired with one.
Dybala also tends to go under the rail when the system doesn’t suit him. Massimiliano Allegri tinkered his system a lot last season. Whenever he deployed the 4-3-3 formation, Dybala’s influence dwindled. He is never your ideal winger. Neither is he suited to playing deep in midfield. Although quick, he isn't as top-end pacey and certainly won’t offer help defensively. He prefers to perch behind the point man.
With Ronaldo in town, he is unlikely to enjoy that liberty any more. At 33, the Portuguese doesn’t have much left in his tank. Even if he manages to find some extra fuel, he won't be doing all the chasing while Dybala strolls around the park.
The mood around Gonzalo Higuain's camp is that of ecstasy. Like Khedira, Higuain apparently has fond memories of his time partnering Ronaldo in the Spanish capital. He should after passing the century mark in six seasons at the Bernabeu. The 30-year-old's brother Nicolas doubles as his agent and does all the talking.
If Juve can do it, this will be fantastic, just spectacular.
The Old Lady didn't disappoint. Irrespective of the system, Higuain won’t have much problem blending with the new boy. Yet, the most appealing prospect is a trequartista, with Dybala slightly behind.
With a flexible gaffer like Allegri, expect some crazy tactics. There’s the 4-3-3, Ronaldo and Dybala either side of Higuain. Or with tireless workers Mario Mandzukic and Douglas Costa, the 33-year-old could slot alone up front, just in front of Dybala. In some cases, Allegri may do without his Argentine playmaker, instead opting for a 4-4-2.
However, the Bianconeri may not enjoy such luxury when the season begins. They must balance the books to cover Ronaldo's operating cost. Either Higuain or Dybala could be sacrificed. An early welcome note won't be enough to prevent a sacrificial lamb from going to slaughter.