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Dybala, Lost in the shadow?

Now 25, Paulo Dybala was a prodigiously talented youngster. However, Dybala’s form has fallen off the cliff over the last year.

Last updated: 01.04.2019
Dybala a prodigiously talented youngster | Sports Social Blog

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If Argentina are the Beatles of world football then Lionel Messi is John Lennon. There’s an interesting scene towards the end of Danny Boyle’s brilliant Steve Jobs biography. Steve Wozniak complains about being tired of playing Ringo to Jobs’ Lennon and the latter said, ‘You think John became John by winning a raffle, Woz? You think he tricked somebody or hit George Harrison over the head? He was John because he was John.’ That’s a reality check for any footballer who complains or thinks about being in the shadow of Messi. He is Messi and you are not.

You might be wondering why I am talking about Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Lionel Messi in a piece around Paulo Dybala? Have some patience.


For around two decades any up and coming young Argentine talent was dubbed the second coming of Diego Maradona. His exploits in the 1986 World Cup and the legend around him made Maradona an imposing and almost an impossible figure to emulate. But then came Messi and the inevitable comparisons with the Argentina legend, which still continue. I am not going into that as it could continue till the cows come home, sleep in their shade and then wake up for next morning’s grazing.

Messi has become the Maradona for the next generation of Argentina stars and Dybala was one of the players who was anointed his heir apparent.

Now 25, Dybala was a prodigiously talented youngster and Palermo paid relatively big money to sign him from Instituto AC Cordoba in 2012. The Argentine took little time to show the extent of his quality in Italian football. It became pretty clear early on that he would become too big for Palermo.

Juventus came calling in 2015 and the forward jumped at the opportunity of joining arguably Italy’s biggest club. In Turin, Dybala shone in the first few years and was inevitably linked with a move to Barcelona, where Messi was and is still going strong. He went from strength to strength at the Juventus stadium despite struggling to make a mark with Argentine, where he and Messi were vying for the same role.

Despite not being a traditional number 9, Dybala netted 68 goals in his first three seasons at Juventus and the comparisons with Messi were not going away.

However, Dybala’s form has fallen off the cliff over the last year. He has netted just nine goals this season and his performances have been underwhelming in a Juventus shirt.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri also took the bold step of dropping Dybala from the starting eleven in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid. The Italian champions needed goals to progress and Federico Bernardeschi was preferred over the Argentine.

And the move paid off as the Italian winger was instrumental to Juventus overturning a two-goal first leg deficit along with Cristiano Ronaldo and helped them to progress in the competition.

Dybala has continued to remain a key part of Juventus’ first-team squad but he is no longer a nailed down starter for the club. Allegri has not shied away from dropping him to the bench and it seems another Argentine is struggling to live up to comparisons with Messi.

There have also been murmurs if a club pay enough money in the summer, Juventus could consider letting him go during the next transfer window. While the club have continued to insist, that the 25-year-old is a key part of their plans, speculation over his future in Turin is not going anywhere.

What went wrong this season?

Dybala was more or less the star man in the Juventus team over the last few years. But that changed last year when the club signed Ronaldo, arguably the second best player in the world (don’t tell him that) from Real Madrid. Once the Portuguese joined it was clear who the main man was going to be in Turin and his name didn’t start with P.

The 25-year-old was already struggling under the shadow of Messi for Argentine and now he had Ronaldo to deal with at Juventus.

The Portuguese’s arrival also marked a tweak in the system for Juventus, with Dybala’s natural position behind the forward disappearing. He has largely been deployed at the right of a three-man attack, which is not his natural position. The reason Bernardeschi was more effective against Atletico Madrid is because he is a natural winger.

Dybala is a number 10 who has been forced to adapt to a different system this season. It is clear that he has not enjoyed the change in position and hence the drop in his output this season.

What is the way forward?

The Argentine is talented enough to command a star billing at any club in the world, barring Juventus and Barcelona at the moment. If he decides to leave Juventus and join one of the big names of European football, he would instantly be the main man in that team. The rumours of interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Manchester United have been inevitable. They are the clubs who have resources to snare him away from Juventus.

There are enough reasons to suggest a move away from Juventus could benefit him. He is not a youngster anymore and at 25, Dybala should have been doing star turns for Juventus. But it seems he could be playing second fiddle to Ronaldo for the time being if he stays in Turin.

For Dybala to stand out and be counted, he needs to be the main man at a top club. His first three seasons at Juventus are indicative of his talent and his ability to be the outstanding performer in a top team.

The Argentine will have to understand, ‘He was John because he was John.’

Video: 10 Outstanding goals Paulo Dybala

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