It’s certainly been a banner day in the Eternal City. After nearly six weeks of speculation, Roma finally got their man, signing Paulo Dybala to a three-year deal in the wee hours of the morning. While we await an official press release from the club, speculation has run rampant about tactics, formations, release clauses, performance bonuses, and all manner of contractual minutiae.
There will be plenty of time to discuss those weighty manners in the coming days and weeks, but the first question many Roma fans asked after this morning’s news was relatively simple: What shirt number will Dybala wear?
On talent alone, Dybala is worthy of the legendary number ten shirt and all it conveys. Still, that simple shirt number becomes an incredibly complex integer when married to Francesco Totti’s enormous legacy with the club. Totti, for many fans, represents everything they love about the club and is, without question, the greatest and most important figure in club history.
And since Totti bid farewell to the club in 2017, the number 10 shirt has remained untouched, taking on a reverence typically saved for holy sites. And it appears that Totti’s 10 will remain in retirement.
While there was some initial speculation that Dybala would don the number 10 shirt and had Totti’s blessing to do so, he has erred on the side of caution. According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Dybala will wear the number 21 shirt for the Giallorossi this season—the same number he wears with Argentina—while Roma’s other new signing, Nemanja Matic, will swap 21 for 8.
For my money, this is a smart move. Even someone as talented as Dybala would face enormous pressure and scrutiny as the first player to wear #10 after Totti.