Welcome to World Class: Paulo Dybala
In an ever-changing modern game, the role of the attacking midfielder is one that has undergone the greatest transition.
These talented individuals are no longer allowed to roam freely as “luxury gamers”, nor to any special leeway due to their tendency to pull a diamond out of the rough or conjure the unthinkable out of nowhere.
These players flourished only a handful of years ago, and their success was most revered in the glorious decade of the 1990s, when calcio reigned supreme throughout Europe. The likes of Roberto Baggio, Rui Costa and many other well-known names have been released every week to strut around at their delightful pace.
Unfortunately, football has evolved since then, with each player becoming more and more vital in a game that values self more than ever. But one man who’s as close to a ’90s calcio comeback as possible in the modern era is Paulo Dybala.
Like many Serie A stars of years past, Dybala has been given a glorious nickname worthy of the style and grace he brings to the pitch: La Joya – the Jewel. And for Juventus, that’s exactly it. The rest of his teammates conform to create the crown, and he’s the jewel, alone up front and center.
How can he get away with this license to move in a team that is based on a strict system, alongside the ideal that no player is more important than the collective? Well, because he’s world class that’s why.
“God gives us a gift, but then this gift must be fulfilled”
– Paulo Dybala
It was evident from his introduction to Italian football with Palermo in 2012 that Dybala was destined for greatness. In a front row that featured now established stars Josip Ilicic and Andrea Belotti, La Joya was everyone’s peerless talent.
What made him shine more than the others was the ease with which everything happened to him. His technique on the ball was so natural, and the grace with which he glided on the pitch immediately brought that of the world’s greatest player, Lionel Messi.
He immediately showcased his stall as an attacking and cunning midfielder. His tight control, his adventure in possession and his love for the flamboyant and the scandalous have attracted the attention of great Europeans. After three years in Sicily, it was time for Turin.
Now a member of the Italian elite, it was time for Dybala to hone his craft, hone his trickery in efficiency and become a regular contributor to the Old Lady. Juve were exactly the right team to help him progress, and he was the perfect player to give this Bianconeri side the spark they needed to dominate Italian football.
“As a fan of the film Gladiator, Paulo decided to wear the mask of Maximus, to prove himself as a warrior and someone who would never give up”
– Marcos Villalobo, author
The Argentine hit the ground running in Turin, scoring 19 goals and assisting four in his debut campaign, and he made the world talk in 2017 with a fascinating display against the Barcelona heavyweights in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
He announced his arrival on the world stage with a magnificent brace, first recovering the ball inside the right-hand side of the penalty area, before pivoting and completing a beautiful shot in the far corner, from a single movement. Dybala then planted a second home, running over a cutback with precise timing and whipping an unstoppable strike past Marc-André ter Stegen.
These are two efforts that a certain Mr. Messi, who was watching, would have been proud of – that’s for sure. Dybala has shown he has a knack for mixing it with the best, with the heart and steel to achieve vital goals at the clutch moments of Juve’s season.
It’s a pattern that continued throughout his career at Turin, having posted his best numbers in the 2017/18 season, scoring 22 goals and making five assists. He started the campaign in electrifying form, scoring two hat tricks in the first four games and totaling 10 goals in six appearances.
While his contributions became a bit more sporadic throughout the year, they did not diminish in importance. Arguably Dybala’s most crucial goal of the season came at Stadio Olimpico, where I Bianconeri failed to break a stubborn SS Lazio side.
But in their hour of need, the magical man delivered. Collecting a pass off the edge of the box, he sort of cleared himself of a challenge, slashed the ball between the legs of his marker and, while struggling to the ground, pushed an arrow shot into the upper corner. It was a defining moment for the season, which propelled Juve one step closer to another scudetto.
The strike reignited his season, after which he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Udinese, scored and assisted in a win over Milan, netted another hat-trick against Benevento and provided the most important help at the last minute. turn Juve to a 3-2 win over Inter at San Siro.
“He was a humble boy, he was never rude and faced pressure naturally, with a smile. Some talented players, especially like children, are also rebels, but Paulo’s rebellion has always appeared on the pitch ”
– Walter Saracho, first coach of Dybala
Since the end of this sensational season (or since the arrival of the new talisman Cristiano Ronaldo, more precisely), Dybala’s grip on the team has weakened and his future in Turin has even been in doubt.
But even with the club ready to sell him, and with critics believing he has lost touch, La Joya still stepped up and delivered for a team that deemed him useless on more than one occasion – because he’s world class.
Forced to host the Portuguese superstar, his free role became restricted, as he was moved from wing to wing, and even to a central position, in order to get the most out of their dear recruit. While his form over the past 18 months has not rivaled 2017 levels, he has always been the deciding factor at crucial times – particularly throughout the 2019/20 campaign.
With Juventus’ title on the line, Dybala stepped forward and scored six goals in seven matches, shutting down in one as the old lady beat her title rivals Inter in one of the biggest clashes of the season.
His streak of selfless contributions saw the Argentine crowned Serie A MVP for the entire season – not bad for someone Juve were trying to whip just 12 months ago.
Dybala’s future remains uncertain, but one thing that can never be questioned is its quality. He played alongside and against the greatest players in the world, and not only did he never look out of place, he even stood out from the crowd.
He delivered when no one else could, in decisive matches against the strongest opponents on the planet. The time for comparisons with Messi is over – he’s Paulo Dybala, and in his own right, he is world class.