Sunday afternoon’s clash between Juventus and Atalanta could be the most important match during I Bianconeri’s season and for the coming seasons.
Its significance does not necessarily lie in the outcome of the outcome or in its significance on the table (although defeat for the old lady can have serious repercussions on their four main ambitions).
But an even more enticing story will unfold, and its shockwaves, which may ripple over the next half decade in Turin, may be thrown over the next 90 minutes of football.
The big news from Andrea Pirlo’s pre – match press conference is as follows: Cristiano Ronaldo will miss the clash with Atalanta through injury. He continued: Paulo Dybala will instead get a place in the starting lineup.
What does all this mean? This means that Dybala has 90 minutes to prove why he would be awarded a completely new contract this summer, even if it sends Ronaldo on his way out of Turin.
No pressure, Paulo.
? | Summary of Pirlo press conference:
-Cristiano will miss the game, flexor problems. -Dybala will start -Cuadrado will start either on the wing or right-back-Arthur & McKennie are good against starting. -Bonucci makes a specific work program to get back in top shape. pic.twitter.com/iPIvohmq6X
– JuveFC (@juvefcdotcom) April 17, 2021
Several important points come to mind when considering Juve owner Andrea Agnelli’s options. First, no matter how many times the club tells Dybala that he is free to leave, the Argentine refuses to leave. He loves being a Juventus player and wants to spend as much of his career as possible in Turin.
Secondly, Ronaldo’s eye-watering salary of € 31 million a year – which is more than the entire Atalanta squad combined – paralyzes the club and destroys their spending in the transfer window. So while the Portuguese player is rooted in the Old Lady, the chances of upgrading the players around him are small.
Thirdly, with both Ronaldo and Dybala’s contracts expiring next summer, and with both players losing value in the transfer market for each passing month, one thing is clear: one of them must go.
The problem with Dybala this season has largely been that his own fitness issues have limited him from showing his worth to Pirlo and his Juventus revolution. To reinforce this misery, Ronaldo has scored 25 goals in 27 games to make him, at least statistically, one of I Bianconeri’s most important players.
Dybala (99 goals) can score his 100th goal in ⚪⚫ tomorrow. ? #AtalantaJuve pic.twitter.com/x7MrxdfjPp
– Juve Canal (@ juvecanal2) April 17, 2021
Is La Joya then fighting a losing battle?
Not necessarily, actually. For all Ronaldo’s statistics and goals against Cagliari and Spezia, he has let Juve down in the big games – which, you know, was the only reason he was signed in the first place.
I Bianconeri could probably have won the league title without him during both of his first two seasons at the club, although his exaggerated numbers suggest he was their only source of goals. And given that he was recruited as a Champions League expert, his performances against Lyon and Porto during the last two European outings were as gloomy as they will come.
Now 36 years old and entering what will be his last year in Turin, his influence during the big moments diminishes, and his impact on the team outside the penalty area is non-existent. Realistically, a penalty is not the man you want to build your team around – especially if the latter means sacrificing the most talented player at the club.
Cristiano Ronaldo is injured, will not play in the Juventus match against Atalanta on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/27ZO70sMHL
– Cristiano Ronaldo Fans (@ Cristia82137311) April 17, 2021
Dybala is good enough to be the face and heart of this Juve team, and the moment has come to demonstrate it. He feels like the perfect man to record behind Alvaro Morata or feed the lightning forward Federico Chiesa, while providing exactly what the Italian champions have been missing all season: creativity and an attacking link between midfield and attackers.
The Argentine should be the type of player that Pirlo would love to form, given his own tendencies to express himself on the pitch, and the fact that he started his playing career in a similar role before eventually becoming a midfielder.
If the rookie coach can find a way to get the best out of Dybala, there should be no one to look back. There are few trickier teams to try against than Atalanta, but a strong display against la Dea can plant the seed of doubt in Pirlo’s mind, over the club’s seeming to accept making money on the former Palermo man.
He must be the one who says, “No, Dybala is the man for me, not Ronaldo.” It will only happen if the forward appears and does what he does best against Atalanta. This season has been his worst in the Bianconeri jersey, but exterior factors have more than played their part, and nothing more than question marks over his future.
The 27-year-old is now hitting his first year, and he wants to get paid accordingly – nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, Juve simply can not afford to give him what he deserves while Ronaldo is on the books, even if his demands remain a fraction of the Portuguese forward salary.
Letting Dybala go to keep Ronaldo for another year would be a big mistake, regardless of the size and income benefits of the Real Madrid legend. When considering the situation with a little common sense, there should only be one winner in this duel:
The insanely talented, influential match winner who still has so much of his career ahead of him.
Only one can stay | Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images
Let us not chop our words when it comes to the size of the task that awaits La Joya. No player faces a tougher challenge than removing a legend with Ronaldo’s reputation from his throne, even if the king continues a bit.
Sunday’s clash with Atalanta, combined with the absence of the Portuguese superstar, gives Dybala the perfect opportunity to take his shot and put his claim as Juventus’ present and future, in what may be his last dance in black and white.
However, you come to the king, you should not miss. Take the chance with both hands, Paulo.