If news reports are true, a monumental transfer between two huge European clubs could be on the brink of materializing. Several news outlets from both England and Italy have reported that Manchester United and Juventus are working on a swap deal. If they pull it off, the deal would involve Romelu Lukaku going to Turin, while Paulo Dybala would join England’s most decorated soccer team.
According to these reports, Dybala’s agent is currently in England, where he’s supposed to meet Man United’s representatives for discussions. These discussions, which revolve around Dybala’s potential contract and personal details, would help the Argentine forward decide whether he wants to make the switch to the English Premier League. Allegedly, Dybala’s wish is to remain a Juventus player but feels that a lucrative offer from the Red Devils could change his mind. He’s reportedly asking for a weekly wage of £120,000 ($146,000) after tax. This would make him one of the highest earners at his new club, but, with United’s financial power, it shouldn’t be a stumbling block.
Moreover, another thing Dybala’s decision depends on is how Juventus positions itself with his status. Namely, while his wish is to stay with the Italian champions, if Maurizio Sarri, Juventus’ head coach, and the board inform him he’s no longer part of the Juventus project, he would accept the transfer to Manchester.
Dybala vs. Lukaku
Dybala joined the Turin giants in 2015, when Juventus paid Palermo €32 million ($36 million) for the creative forward. During his time there (until now), Dybala scored 78 goals and made 30 assists in 182 appearances. The other side to this equation, Romelu Lukaku, Dybala’s peer, is the highest-scoring player in Belgian national team history. In the two seasons he spent at Old Trafford, Lukaku recorded 13 assists and 42 goals in 96 appearances. Statistically, Dybala is involved in 0.59 goals per match, compared to Lukaku’s 0.57 goals a game. With numbers like these, it’s no wonder why the two clubs would accept a straight swap deal which wouldn’t include any cash.
However, what Dybala has on his side, as opposed to Lukaku, is his positional versatility. He can play in all three positions in front of the goal. As a reminder, Juventus and Man United played against each other last October in a Champions League group match. Then, Dybala was the only goalscorer in Juventus’ narrow away win. In the other game between the two teams in the UCL group stage, Cristiano Ronaldo, former Man United player, gave The Old Lady the lead, but the English turned it around to win 2–1.
Throughout the summer, there have been heavy talks about Lukaku’s potential transfer to Juventus’ biggest rival — Internazionale. Inter’s head coach, Antonio Conte, is a huge admirer of Lukaku and wanted him to join his squad, especially with Mauro Icardi’s departure imminent. They have made several offers, all of which have failed to match Man United’s evaluation. Their latest offer, media reported, was £54 million ($66 million). This is $18 million short of what Man United would sell for.
In an interview with an Italian news outlet, Inter chief executive, Beppe Marotta, said that they made a strong offer which was suitable for Lukaku’s market value. However, the two parties couldn’t reach an agreement. Marotta claimed that Inter was in a strong financial position, but they needed to stay in the confines of certain prices, as they didn’t want to overpay. According to Marotta, Inter is in a rebuilding process with big investments already made, and he thinks the squad is in a good stage. Whether Conte will be happy with the transfer window is a question he’ll answer after the window closes on August 31.
This development (or lack thereof) in the negotiations has prompted Juventus to join the race. Lukaku hasn’t hidden his desire to leave the club, after joining from Everton in 2017. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Man United’s head coach, doesn’t seem too eager to fight to keep Lukaku on his roster. He seemingly favors Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to start ahead of Lukaku and would be happy to swap the Belgian for Dybala.
Lukaku didn’t take part in any of five pre-season friendlies. Solskjaer claimed this was due to injury and fitness issues. On Tuesday, Solskjaer’s team faced Kristiansund in a 1–0 win. The Norwegian coach’s son, Noah, played for the opposition team. This was their second-to-last friendly before the season opener against Chelsea on August 11. The news of Eric Bailly’s injury spoiled the friendly match in Solskjaer’s hometown. Namely, Bailly faces five to six months on the sidelines following knee surgery. The Ivorian center back suffered the injury in United’s pre-season 2–1 win against Tottenham.