Tottenham are being linked with an audacious swoop for Juventus forward Paulo Dybala in what would be one of the biggest moves of the summer transfer window.
After last season’s Champions League heartbreak, Spurs are clearly trying to go one better by winning a major trophy this year, or at least challenging Manchester City and Liverpool more intensively. Mauricio Pochettino has already broken the club’s transfer record to bring in Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon, and it looks like another statement signing could soon happen.
Dybala, now 25, is reportedly valued at £80m by Juventus. Considered one of the best footballers playing in Europe this time last year, the Argentinian’s form fell off last season following the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, who inevitably stole the limelight in Turin.
Even if Tottenham can negotiate that price down, it’s very likely the Londoners will have to break their transfer record again to sign Dybala. The significance of the move means many parties would benefit while potential problems would be created for others.
We’ve picked out some of the possible winners and losers if Spurs sign Dybala from Juventus.
Winner: Mauricio Pochettino
It would perhaps be hyperbolic to say the next two weeks are make or break for Pochettino and Tottenham. They have already made a major signing in the shape of Ndombele, a midfielder who adds quality and depth to the squad and an acquisition that marks a change of tack in the transfer market; there is a sudden willingness to spend big in order to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool.
But Spurs are still in need of a couple of additions. Their only other signing, Leeds United starlet Jack Clarke, has returned to the Championship on loan. Kieran Trippier hasn’t been replaced at right-back. And there is still a possibility Christian Eriksen will depart, meaning a high-profile attacker may yet be required.
Dybala, then, would represent the ideal solution to the last of those issues, which would please Pochettino – a manager who has sporadically bemoaned Spurs’ lack of spending power – to no end. What’s more, Pochettino is a huge fan of Dybala, as evidenced by comments he made about his countryman ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League knockout clash with Juventus in 2017/18, in which Dybala scored the winner.
“It’s always nice to play against the best in the world,” Pochettino said. “I put Dybala in that category, because he is a special talent and seeing him on the pitch is wonderful, even if he might cause your team a few problems.”
Loser: Giovani Lo Celso
Spurs fans can be excused for momentarily forgetting about the club’s pursuit of Real Betis star Giovanni Lo Celso. The sudden excitement sparked by the Dybala rumours have put everything else on the back-burner, but it’s worth remembering Tottenham are reportedly locked in talks with Betis over a deal for Lo Celso.
However, if Dybala truly is being targeted, there is a chance Spurs may have to end their interest in Lo Celso. The London Evening Standard claims Tottenham will have to choose whether to prioritise a move for Dybala or Lo Celso if Juventus indicate they are willing to do business over the former. It’s a more difficult decision than it initially sounds.
Positionally, Spurs’ choice may depend on Eriksen’s future. If the Dane leaves, it would make sense to bring in Lo Celso as a replacement. The 23-year-old can link the midfield and attack like Eriksen, dropping deep to collect the ball and make things happen. Dybala is an out-and-out forward, albeit a versatile one. His arrival would replace Eriksen’s prestige rather than function as a like-for-like successor.
Tottenham must decide what’s more important. But ultimately, it will be very difficult for them to turn down the chance to sign a player of Dybala’s standard if he is affordable. As a result, Lo Celso may end up being ignored.
Winner: Tottenham’s prestige
Speaking of prestige, Spurs’ reputation received a huge boost last season after reaching the Champions League. It could even be argued that Dybala joining wouldn’t have been at all realistic had Spurs gone out of the competition at an earlier stage. Some might say it remains unrealistic and, indeed, it is still unclear whether the player is keen on the move – but the prospective benefits are endless for Tottenham.
In the past, Dybala has been labelled as Juventus’ budding talisman, Lionel Messi’s future strike partner at Barcelona or Real Madrid’s next Galáctico. His pedigree is the sort European giants drool over. A modest goal return last season – Dybala scored just five times in Serie A – has seen interest cool among the continent’s biggest clubs, potentially opening up an unexpected door to Spurs.
If Tottenham somehow pull it off, they will be making a real statement of intent. The arrival of Ndombele has already enhanced the club’s prestige, but Dybala is far more established and would thus be labelled a more impressive signing.
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Loser: Manchester United
Alongside Barcelona and Real Madrid, Manchester United have also been heavily linked with Dybala in the past. There has been talk they could put up a challenge for Dybala’s signature this summer, but Spurs are said to be in a stronger position. That makes sense given Pochettino’s side will compete in the Champions League for a fourth successive season next term.
United have been forced to settle for a Europa League place, making it more difficult to acquire top-level players regardless of their spending power. Taking finances out of the equation, Tottenham is a more appealing location than Old Trafford at present. It’s unclear how much of a factor money will be to Dybala, but taking everything into consideration, it looks like United will miss out on the Argentina international.
If Dybala is a long-term target for United, they will be frustrated by Juventus making him available during a window in which the Red Devils are unable to lure him. It all goes to show just how important qualifying for the Champions League is.
Winner: Harry Kane
With Fernando Llorente’s contract having expired last month, Spurs are now without a dedicated deputy for Harry Kane. Teenager Troy Parrott has been given minutes on the club’s pre-season tour, but Tottenham could do with a new senior centre-forward to provide backup for Kane. An alternative would be to splash out on a forward who can partner the England captain rather than deputise for him.
If that’s the route Spurs go down, Dybala would be perfect. A front two of Kane and Dybala would be one of Europe’s most potent strike partnerships. The latter scored 26 goals across all competitions in 2017/18 while Kane was bagging 41 for Tottenham. Both players struggled to match those figures last season for different reasons, but 2019/20 could see them return to their best.
Their styles and approaches would complement each other, too. Kane and Dybala both like to roam around the final third, dropping into the number 10 role when appropriate just as often as they make runs off the shoulder of the last man. Their interchangeability would be incredibly useful if they are able to work on the same wavelength.
Loser: Lucas Moura
While Kane is set to prosper from Dybala’s arrival, Lucas Moura may end up suffering. The Brazilian, whose extraordinary hat-trick against Ajax sent Spurs through to the Champions League final last season, was left out of the line-up against Liverpool in Madrid to make room for the returning Kane. Sadly for the Brazilian, he doesn’t quite make it into Pochettino’s preferred XI when everybody is fit.
Signing Dybala would knock Lucas down another place in the pecking order. Lucas has scored against Juventus and Manchester United in pre-season, picking up where he left off from last term. Having a player of his ilk in reserve can only be a good thing for Tottenham, but he may have to make a personal sacrifice by accepting a role as a substitute if Dybala comes in.
Winner: Mario Mandzukic
Dybala’s exit would make way for Mario Mandzukic to nail down a starting spot in Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus side, but only if the former Chelsea boss changes his ways and deploys two up front, as opposed to sticking with the 4-3-3 system we saw so regularly at Chelsea last season. Sarri recently hinted he is open to trying two strikers, suggesting Dybala could partner Ronaldo.
“I think Dybala can play as a false nine quite comfortably,” Sarri said. “We can also set up the attack slightly differently, with the 4-3-1-2 and Dybala playing on the right of a front two.”
In the event of Dybala’s departure to Spurs, Mandzukic would be used as Ronaldo’s partner. It’s a collaboration that worked well last season with Mandzukic assisting Ronaldo on multiple occasions. Dybala leaving may reduce Sarri’s options, but it may also force the Italian into discovering his best attack.