As the whistle blew, signifying the end of the 194th Derby della mole, I could not help but feel that my thoughts about this Juventus side had crystallized. Something was different about this Turin Derby victory. Was it the effectiveness of the press with Mario Mandzukic moving from the left wing to striker? Was it Giorgio Chiellini’s complete shutdown of Torino’s prolific forward Andrea Belotti? Was it the gelling of Blaise Matuidi and Miralem Pjanic’s midfield partnership? No, no, no, it was something deeper, something intangible. It was as if the void that had emerged after Alessandro Del Piero’s departure in 2012 had been filled. I discovered that the true heir to the famed Juventus #10 shirt finally found its home on the back of Argentine forward Paulo Dybala.
The heritage, prestige, and iconography of the #10 shirt at Juventus is nothing short of legendary. Worn by Omar Sívori, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, and Alessandro Del Piero, the #10 demands more than just goalscoring and chance creation, but also the emotional and spiritual responsibilities of leadership, bravery, and inspiration to teammates and supporters alike. In other words, it was duty of the #10 to ensure that children would grow up dreaming of sporting that venerable shirt one day for the club.
Paulo Dybala spearheaded the Bianconeri to their sixth consecutive league win in Saturday’s Turin Derby, registering two goals in his superb performance. With a staggering ten goals in just six outings, the Argentine is now one goal shy of last year’s tally with a whopping thirty matches left in the season. Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri has taken to reshifting the side to accommodate the strengths of Dybala. The relocation of Mario Mandzukic into the center forward role allows for Dybala to operate in the hole, where he has a penchant to curl one in on his favored left peg: his trademark finish. Gonzalo Higuain, Juve’s highest scorer last year, has had a sluggish start to the season, warranting his removal from the starting XI. However, his benching on Saturday in favor of Mandzukic, a target man with a tireless workrate, tells me that Allegri may view Dybala as the team’s principal attacking threat and is willing to bench one of the world’s top strikers to get the most out of his #10. Allegri, who, in the past, has dabbled with slotting the Argentine wide right or centrally as a second striker, has now given him the green light to play as a trequartista, an imaginative, technical, advanced playmaker with considerable tactical freedom to roam into the half and wide spaces. So far, the youngster has flourished in this role and is expected to continue to do so on Juve’s quest for their seventh consecutive Scudetto.
Perhaps the most magical aspect of Dybala sporting the #10 is the fact that he appears to be cut from the very same cloth as his predecessors. With the flair of Sívori, the grace of Platini, the technical skills of Baggio, and the soul of Del Piero, Dybala is a time capsule of sorts, possessing all of the special qualities of the legends that have come to define the #10 at Juve. Through Paulo Dybala, the world is gifted a glimpse into the past, the present, and the future of Juventus Football Club.