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Paulo Dybala to Man United: How Juventus forward would fit in at Old Trafford
Dybala involved in potential swap deal with Romelu Lukaku
Last Updated: 01/08/19 4:10pm
Paulo Dybala could feature in a sensational swap deal taking him to Manchester United and Romelu Lukaku to Juventus. But what would the Argentina international bring to Old Trafford?
Lukaku's future has been one of the sagas of the summer with Inter Milan seeing a £53.9m bid for the Belgian rejected by United last week, but now it appears the striker could be heading to Inter's Serie A rivals Juventus - and that will mean a new look for United's front line.
But how would Dybala fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans? And why are Juventus happy to include him in a swap?
Here, we take a closer look at the forward…
Name: Paulo Dybala
Age:25 years old
International:Argentina (24 caps, 2 goals)
Honours: 4 x Serie A, 3 x Coppa Italia, 3 x Serie A team of the year
What's the story of the saga?
Dybala has long been considered one of the hottest talents in Europe and has enjoyed some stellar seasons in Italy, shining at Juventus after making his name at Palermo. His 68 goals in 140 appearances between 2015 and 2018 for Serie A champions Juventus had a long list of clubs reportedly chasing his signature.
Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have all been linked with the Argentine in the past, while United have repeatedly been tipped to make a move for him. This summer Tottenham were also reportedly interested - although they would have needed big-money sales to finance a move for a player valued in excess of £80m.
Dybala has always insisted he wanted to remain at Juventus - but the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin changed his role, his standing in the team and opened the door for a potential move. "He was the player that suffered from Ronaldo's arrival the most," Sky in Italy reporter Francesco Cosatti said.
With the emphasis of the team's play focused on Ronaldo, Dybala played deeper and his goal tally fell dramatically. "At one point in the season Dybala found good stability, he was starting every game and playing a lot - but he did suffer in the goal-scoring aspect. Then he got injured, and the relationship with Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri started deteriorating, without a doubt," Cosatti added.
That Ronaldo-centric approach is set to continue in 2019/20. Maurizio Sarri met Ronaldo at the earliest opportunity after being appointed new Juventus boss, stepping onto the Portuguese's yacht to discuss how he could help him help the team. His first meeting with Dybala will take place on August 1, following Dybala's return from his summer break after the Copa America.
Dybala's next step not only hinges on that conversation but also on the future of United striker Lukaku. With the Premier League side valuing Lukaku above the £79m they paid for him in 2017, Inter Milan's £53.9m bid last week was quickly rejected. Instead, a deal with Juventus and Dybala is on the cards.
Sky in Italy reported on Tuesday that United and Juventus had agreed a swap deal, while Dybala's agent was in London that day for talks with United. By Wednesday evening, everything seemed in place for the transfer to take place - along as Dybala agrees.
It would be a headline-grabbing, dramatic move if it comes off - and one United supporters will rightly be excited about.
While Lukaku has come in for criticism, Dybala - despite his struggles in the final third last season - remains one of the most exciting attackers around. And has the potential to get even better.
Stats to get excited about
"He brings technique, pace, stamina, and he is a player that will score if he has the ball in the box," Cosatti said. United supporters got a first-hand view of how dangerous Dybala can be in October, when he tucked home Ronaldo's cross to put Juventus on course for a 1-0 Champions League group stage win at Old Trafford.
That predatory strike is just what Solskjaer would welcome more of from his United attackers this coming season.
In 2017/18, Dybala hit 26 goals in 46 appearances across all competitions. That worked out as one goal every 107 minutes - a far superior strike rate to any United player that season. While a positional shift saw his haul reduced to just 10 strikes last time around, his fine finishing ability hasn't deserted him - as he proved against United.
But Dybala's trickery and creativity will appeal to Solskjaer as well. Only Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba made more league assists than Dybala last season but more eye-catching is his neat footwork, which puts him among the top dribblers in Europe. The 66 fouls he drew are testament to the frustration he can cause defenders.
Interestingly, Pogba was the only United player last season to marginally out-do Dybala for dribbles (91 vs 92) and fouls won (66 vs 69). The pair had previously struck up a close bond at Juventus.
The Pogba factor and Dybala's United role
"Dybala and Pogba have a very good relationship," Cosatti said. "They are the same age, they used to celebrate together.
"Talent goes down well with talent, and they were conscious that they both had plenty and they would grow together at Juventus." Could they now grow together at United instead?
"We have remained in touch since he left," Dybala said after Juventus' Champions League clashes with Pogba's United last season. "We're still very close and who knows, maybe in the future we can play together again."
That could be in the same starting XI should this swap deal go through.
Dybala would be likely to occupy one of the three attacking positions in support of the striker in a 4-2-3-1 set-up.
He could certainly do plenty of damage from the No 10 role, with the pace of Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard or Dan James wide of him and Marcus Rashford up top, with Pogba in a deeper role supplying Dybala with possession.
Alternatively, he could occupy one of the wider positions in an attacking 4-3-3. Dybala's ability to play right across the front line would give Solskjaer plenty of options.
"If it comes off, I think Manchester United fans will be very, very pleased," Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol said. "Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be swapping a player he does not want for a player he does want."
Dybala would give a new, exciting look to United's attacking play - and after a frustrating 2018/19 that would be a welcome change for many supporters.