Serie A preview: Dybala in contract spat as Juventus head to crucial Milan clash
Milan, Jan 21, 2022 (AFP) - Paulo Dybala's future is uncertain as the in-form forward prepares to lead Juventus into one of the biggest matches of their season so far, at title chasing AC Milan.
The Argentina international's current deal with Juve expires at the end of the season and he has reportedly been waiting since October to sign a renewal which would bump his salary up to eight million euros a season ($9.1 million), plus a further two million euros of bonuses.
Dybala shot a stern look towards the Juve hierarchy after opening the scoring in last weekend's home win over Udinese and then implausibly claimed he was trying and failing to "find a friend" in a Covid-enforced crowd of 5,000 at the Allianz Arena.
He then told Sky that things had happened "that I would prefer not to talk about", leaving little doubt about his frustration with the club.
However before Juve's 4-1 Italian Cup win over Sampdoria on Tuesday, in which Dybala scored his third goal in five matches since the new year, CEO Maurizio Arrivabene insisted the club would discuss the new deal with Dybala next month.
"It's not just him, we also have contracts for (Juan) Cuadrado, (Mattia) Perin, (Federico) Bernadeschi and (Mattia) De Sciglio to deal with," Arrivabene told Mediaset.
Last week the Gazzetta Dello Sport reported that Juve, who recorded a loss of almost 210 million euros in the year up to June 2021, want to cut Dybala's salary and shorten the length of his renewal due to worries about his physical condition following a string of injuries.
Meanwhile Inter Milan CEO Giuseppe Marotta suggested they might be ready to pounce should the 28-year-old leave the league leader's biggest rivals, who are unbeaten in eight in the league and have the chance to creep into the Champions League places this weekend as fourth-place Atalanta travel to high-scoring but inconsistent Lazio.
Champions Inter, who are two points clear of AC Milan, may end up having two games in hand come the end of the weekend, as their match with Venezia is at risk of being postponed following a rash of Covid-19 cases at their promoted opposition.
Nearly two years after the pandemic first shut down professional sport in Italy, a protocol made official this week has laid out a clear rule: if you have nine players positive from a pre-agreed 25-man squad list then your match will not go ahead.
Inter will be waiting to see how many of the 15 cases at Venezia -- who announced 11 new positives on Thursday -- are players and if those announced last weekend turn negative before the match at the San Siro on Saturday.
Napoli too risk not playing their derby with Salernitana after the league's bottom side announced a ninth player positive on Thursday evening.
Player to watch: Victor Osimhen
Osimhen could make his first Napoli start in two months should their derby with Salernitana go ahead, as the Nigeria forward makes a sooner-than-expected return to action from face fractures suffered against Inter in late November.
The 23-year-old made his comeback, after missing the Africa Cup of Nations, in a cameo appearance during Napoli's 2-0 win at Bologna on Monday, and with Luciano Spalletti's side four points behind Inter the return of his star strike could kick-start their faltering title challenge.
9 -- The number of players with positive Covid tests needed for a match to be postponed.
8 -- Juventus are unbeaten in the league since late November, winning six of their last eight games and drawing the other two.
Fixtures (time GMT)
Verona v Bologna (1945)
Genoa v Udinese (1400), Inter Milan v Venezia (1700), Lazio v Atalanta (1945)
Cagliari v Fiorentina (1130), Napoli v Salernitana, Spezia v Sampdoria, Torino v Sassuolo (all 1400), Empoli v Roma (1700), AC Milan v Juventus (1945)