For all the furore about Paulo Dybala’s agent arriving in England on Monday, his people had already been in the country over the previous three weeks, asking pointed questions that made a lot of people in football take notice. One was which city was better to live in: London or Manchester.
Dybala already knew his main preference and it was neither. It was to stay at Juventus, but that opinion has significantly changed over the past week.
That is because he feels their entire stance on him has changed. The one-time “future of the club”, the next great star, now feels completely unwanted. He knows Juventus are actively trying to move him on.
Hence he’s now open to going to Old Trafford or Tottenham Hotspur.
Now, Manchester United may be able to get rid of a player they don’t want in Romelu Lukaku for a 25-year-old Dybala who – up until very recently – every single club in the world wanted. It has practically fallen into their lap and is still a little difficult to get your head around.
And yet the wheels of this move are going around at a fair pelt. “It’s very much in motion”, according to sources involved.
Direct swaps are notoriously difficult to complete, but there is an optimism this can be done, and there have already been some agreements between the clubs.
One key question remains, however: why would Juventus be willing to agree to this? (Particularly for a player that would almost seem ideal to Maurizio Sarri, in terms of his movement?)
It really all comes back to the very “present of the club”, not to mention United’s past: Cristiano Ronaldo. That is where Juventus have put all of their chips. Ronaldo does get on with Dybala, but Mario Mandzukic and Romelu Lukaku are seen as a better fits beside him.
Juventus thereby need to recover some of their huge expenditure – especially with a lot of players on the wrong side of their prime on big money, like Sami Khedira. And, after Moises Kean, Dybala is seen as the biggest potential windfall at the club.
There is similarly another angle to the Lukaku pursuit: the club coming up behind them in the wing mirror. Juve are hugely conscious of the resurgence at Inter Milan, all the more so because it has been constructed on two of their key former employees: manager Antonio Conte and CEO Beppe Marotta.
Conte badly wants Lukaku and, Juve being Juve, many in Italy believe this pursuit offers multiple benefits because it allows them to block Inter.
It remains to be seen whether the Milan club respond.
Right now, there’s not too much blocking Dybala’s move to United. It’s still complicated, but so much has already been opened, not to mention Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans.
The club had wanted a versatile forward who presses a lot and, while Dybala isn’t quite that, he is a star who would obviously improve them. He’s far better in the No. 10 role than Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard.
Yes, there is a sense of this being a transfer of convenience – and, in some corners, panic – rather than as part of any such concerted plan, but it’s not like he’s a Radamel Falcao, or even an Angel Di Maria. His stock is higher. He’s still on the rise. There’s more fluidity to what United are, rather than the fixed template of Louis van Gaal’s time.
There’s a lot of fluidity to this situation. It’s not certain, but it’s currently likelier than not.
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