Roma’s prospective acquisition of Paulo Dybala will not just be a huge statement for the club, but it will open up a major lingering theme once again.
Few would have predicted in recent years that Roma would be in a position to compete for the signature of a star like Dybala, but here we are. A deal has been agreed and he is on his way to complete his medical and join the pre-season training camp.
Once he signs along the dotted line, though, one question will spark plenty of debate – what shirt number does he wear?
Dybala has vacated the number 10 shirt at Juventus, and will find the same number unoccupied at Roma. The trouble is, it has been that way since Francesco Totti retired in 2017 and was only ever worn by Giuseppe Giannini and Daniel Fonseca on an official basis before, since the introduction of permanent squad numbers in Serie A.
After Totti, there have been plenty of conflicting opinions over who should take it next.
But Giallorossi Yorkshire is of the belief that Dybala deserves the number 10 immediately if he does sign for Roma. Here are the same number of reasons why.
1. Totti never wanted it to be retiredEmbed from Getty Images
This seems quite crucial: Francesco Totti never wanted his number 10 shirt to be retired.
Sure, it would take a talent of supreme quality to become worthy of inheriting his old shirt after all those years he showed his stardom in it. But Totti never wanted to close off the chance for future generations to aspire to follow in his footsteps – and to write their own stories.
Dybala is certainly capable of keeping the dream alive. He is the kind of player to generate excitement from fans young and old.
For many, the emotion of Totti leaving the game is still raw, five years on. No player will ever be able to replace him.
However, if the man himself wants someone else to wear the shirt one day, then Roma should consider who that player will be. A supreme talent like Dybala certainly seems worthy.
2. Totti has positive opinion on Dybala
It does seem reasonable, though, that the next player to wear the number 10 should be approved by Totti.
Fortunately, Dybala can class Roma’s ex-captain as one of his admirers. In fact, Totti may even have played a part in convincing him to join the Giallorossi.
And a couple of months ago, Totti gave his blessing to Dybala taking the 10.
“I could give Dybala a bit of advice. But if it was up to me, I’d gladly have him become Roma’s next number 10,” he said (as translated by RomaPress).
“Unfortunately it doesn’t depend on me, but let’s see if he wants it, perhaps he wants another number!”
3. Longer no one has it, bigger the pressure
If Dybala opted for something else, then the more time that passed before the number 10 is assigned to someone else, the greater the pressure would be on its next incumbent.
Stories of Totti’s greatness and legacy will only become more romanticised in time. In turn, the amount of expectations on the next number 10 would only increase, in a manner that may become obstructive.
Dybala can cope with the pressure, having performed at a high standard for the past few years with Juventus. He can take some of the burden away by inheriting the famous number – and should have the mentality, as a multiple Scudetto winner, to cope.
4. Pellegrini making number 7 his ownEmbed from Getty Images
Besides, there aren’t too many other contenders in the current squad to take the number 10.
One idea has been captain Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has worn the number 7 ever since returning from Sassuolo in 2017. However, he is now making that jersey – once iconic for its association with Bruno Conti – his own.
Pellegrini, as long as he is mentally capable, has had the talent and the heritage to deserve Totti’s old shirt. But as a Roma fan, one could imagine he would be enthusiastic about sharing a pitch with Dybala.
Therefore, it seems sensible for Pellegrini to continue in the number 7 jersey, while welcoming a new number 10 to his group.
5. Doesn’t have to be a Roman
Of course, Pellegrini would continue a Roman tradition with the number 10 shirt. But it should be remembered that Totti is not the only person to have worn the 10 for Roma before.
For legends like him and Giuseppe Giannini, there have also been holders of the number who weren’t natives.
In fact, the last bearer before Totti was South American – Daniel Fonseca. Hence, the focus needs to shift partially away from the next player to wear 10 just being Totti’s heir. While his legacy with the shirt is greater than any other, it doesn’t mean every player who wears it needs to replicate him.
But Dybala, despite his outside heritage, could have the pedigree required regardless.
6. Dybala wore iconic number 10 at JuventusEmbed from Getty Images
Indeed, the number he most recently wore at Juventus was the number 10. Up in Turin, it was an iconic jersey before he took it too, thanks to the likes of Alessandro Del Piero.
Yes, he waited his turn (after Paul Pogba) to take it for Juventus, earning it before he inherited it. But he was quite young when he joined them and now is a fully fledged superstar.
He lived up to the burden of expectation in the number 10 shirt at Juventus – scoring 73 goals in the five seasons he had it – and there is every reason to believe he could at Roma too.
7. Dybala doesn’t have anything to prove
As stated, Dybala may have had something to prove at Juventus before he could be their number 10, but that isn’t the case now.
The 28-year-old is at the peak of his powers and it is a fallacy to believe he has to do anything to earn the number. This is Roma’s highest-profile signing in over two decades, some would argue, so he is clearly deserving of stepping into iconic territory immediately.
8. Few archetypal number 10s around but Dybala is one
While the debate has lingered about the number 10 shirt before all this happened, it has been acknowledged that it shouldn’t just be handed to anyone. The value Totti gave to it should be realised. While the next incumbent shouldn’t necessarily already be world class, it should be someone who plays in his style.
But Dybala can certainly match that. He is one of the few Totti-like players in circulation today – equally effective as an attacking midfielder or a striker.
With 115 goals and 48 assists in total for Juventus, he has plenty of creativity and efficiency to deserve the reputation of a 10.
9. All other numbers he has ever worn are taken
Besides, what other number would Dybala take at Roma? All his other previous jerseys are currently occupied among the current squad.
He wore 9 for Cordoba and Palermo, and 21 when he originally joined Juventus. Tammy Abraham is doing well in the former and Nemanja Matic has just taken the latter.
At international level, Dybala has also worn 22, 19 and 7 for Argentina, in addition to his customary 21. But Nicolo Zaniolo has 22 (as long as he stays), Zeki Celik has taken 19 and Pellegrini, as referenced, is number 7.
Can you imagine Dybala in anything else? It’s quite hard to say. The number 10 might just have to do.
10. Being the main man in growing projectEmbed from Getty Images
By taking such an iconic figure, it would be representative of the status Dybala will have in this exciting project.
Make no mistake, he will be one of the highest-pedigree players Roma have brought in for years – perhaps even ever. That should be recognised.
The number 10 may be the final piece of temptation Dybala needed to accept Roma’s proposal. He could now become an iconic figure and revive the excitement of seeing those two digits on a Roma shirt.
Now, all eyes will be on an official announcement to see what happens.