From Del Piero to Dybala: The Struggle of Juventus Talents

It’s definitely not the first time, and it might not be the last, but Paulo Dybala is suffering from a difficult start of the season at Juventus, as it’s still unclear where he exactly fits in Andrea Pirlo’s tactical system. Whilst it would be difficult for La Joya to digest these unexpected troubles – considering his status as one of the best players in Serie A – his current path at Juventus holds some significant resemblance with the story of the club’s greatest number 10, Alessandro Del Piero.

Someone with his capabilities, his talent and I’ll add his mentality, must do even more. Paulo must set himself no limits and conquer the future. Nobody gives you anything for free, especially not at Juve, and I say that from experience. You have to prove everything to the very last game, let alone before the peak of your career.

During an interview with La Gazzetta Dello Sport last season, Alessandro Del Piero sent the valuable advice quoted above to Paulo Dybala. And when Pinturicchio mentions that his words are based on his own experience, this can be easily qualified as a vast understatement. 

The 2006 World Cup winner has been labeled as the greatest player in Juventus’ history, and who can deny him this incredible accolade while he holds the record of most appearances for the club, as well as the most goals scored, in an marvelous stint that lasted for 19 years, and saw him win every possible major trophy in club football. 

So with an illustrious career like this, one would be guided to believe that Del Piero’s spot on the pitch had always been reserved and crafted in gold. But instead, it has mostly been the opposite, and those who followed Ale’s Juventus career – especially in its latter stages – know how much truth lies in his own statement quoted above. 

Alessandro Del Piero never misses a chance to share an advice with Paulo Dybala

Just like the historical colors of the club, Del Piero’s career with La Vecchia Signora had been a mixture of black and white pages. While the heartbreaking injury in Udine and the Serie B relegation would each require an article on its own, Del Piero – since the departure of Marcello Lippi from Juventus – had to fight his way into the starting lineup with the arrival of every new manager, just like Dybala needs to be doing at the moment. 

Fabio Capello’s appointment in 2004 coincident with the arrival of a young Swedish striker called Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the new Bianconeri boss decided to break the golden attacking duo of David Trezeguet and Del Piero, and rely on a new partnership between Ibrahimovic and the French hit-man. 

But despite trying to minimize the captain’s impact on the club, Capello always turned to Alex in times of dire need, as the talented skipper offered a unique skill-set that very few in the world possessed. With his bicycle-kick assist for Trezeguet against Milan, and his free-kick goal against Inter, Del Piero managed to bail-out his tormentor whenever he found himself in trouble, delivering in the most crucial of moments, which essentially clinched two Scudetto titles (which were later revoked) for the old Italian tactician. 

After the club’s return to Serie A, new coach Claudio Ranieri awkwardly decided to drop Del Piero at the beginning of the season, in favor of the hard working Vincenzo Iaquinta. No wonder Del Boy took it as a slight, but he kept his head down and trained hard, and soon enough regained his best form and basically started his very own Indian summer, clinching the Serie A top scorer award by the end of season, while Ranieri could only watch and clap for Pinturicchio‘s brilliance from the sidelines. 

Del Piero’s final Juventus chapter came under the guidance of his former teammate Antonio Conte. And yet again, the current Inter tactician preferred the likes of Alessandro Matri and Mirko Vucinic in attack, only sparingly using the aging captain. Nonetheless, Del Piero’s contributions – mostly as a super substitute – were once again crucial in clinching Juventus’ first Scudetto after their return from Serie B, and launching a winning dynasty that lasts until this very day. His last minute free-kick goal against Lazio is a prime example on this matter. 

Del Piero gloriously bowing out of Juventus in 2012

Even though age, Andrea Agnelli and Antonio Conte all contributed in his eventual departure, Del Piero left his beloved Old Lady on a high note, and a Scudetto trophy in his hands, and his fight until his last Juventus breath, must be a lesson for all young players, and above all Paulo Dybala, his natural heir at the club, and the player that he chooses to advice – and defend – at every given opportunity. 

Just like Del Piero, Dybala had a nuclear start to his Juventus career, showing incredible promise early on. But with more responsibilities laid on his shoulders, more trouble is expected, and any human being labeled as a potential “new Messi” is ought to disappoint at times. 

Massimiliano Allegri’s switch to 4-3-3 during the latter stages of his Juventus stint hurt La Joya more than anyone else, as that system was naturally aimed to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, and thus Dybala often found himself on the bench with Mario Mandzukic and Federico Bernardeschi being preferred options to accompany the Portuguese superstar in attack. 

During the summer of 2019, Maurizio Sarri’s arrival didn’t seem to be a sign of better things to come for the Argentine forward, especially with the club almost selling him to Tottenham Hotspurs, while swap deals with Manchester United and Inter were also on the table. Dybala’s refusal to leave Juve was the only reason that kept him at the club during that stormy summer. 

Paulo Dybala repeatedly having to fight for his place at Juventus
Paulo Dybala repeatedly had to fight for his place at Juventus

Walking on the footsteps of Del Piero, Dybala fought his way into Sarri’s Starting XI. Although the former Napoli and Chelsea manager initially opted to bench him in favor of Ronaldo, Douglas Costa and the returning Gonzalo Higuain, The young number 10 eventually cemented his position in the lineup as a false number 9, dropping out his Argentine compatriot in the process. 

And just like Del Piero returned from exile to become the league’s top scorer all during the same season, Paulo Dybala managed to recreate that underdog story, when he ended last season with the best Serie A player award after starting the season as a bench warmer. 

In conclusion, for any Juventus fan worried about Dybala’s future with Andrea Pirlo at the helm of the tactical staff, we invite him to take a closer look at the player’s Juventus career, or better, his predecessor’s career. 

Soon enough, the young gladiator will put his imaginary mask on as he celebrates another brilliant goal, with Andrea Pirlo calmly clapping him from the sidelines, while thinking how glad he is to have this Argentine jewel among his ranks. And if you don’t believe us, we’ll leave you with one final Alessandro Del Piero quote on Paulo Dybala:

Dybala’s journey has just begun and will get even better – with the Bianconeri jersey on his back, obviously.