have started Serie A in their typical bullish fashion. Victories over both
Parma and Napoli in Maurizio Sarri’s first two games, although not convincing,
have set la Vecchia Signora up nicely going into the first international
break of the season.
Juventus player who will not be sharing the same optimism as the new season
begins, is attacker, Paolo Dybala. He has started neither of Juventus’ games so
far and only came on for the final 15 minutes against Napoli. This summer has
seen him heavily linked with Manchester United and Tottenham- a move in January
is still being heavily talked about.
Dybala started his footballing career at Instituto in his native Argentina, but
he was moulded into the world-class forward he is today, during his time in the
Sicilian capital of Palermo.
broke their transfer record in July 2012 to sign the then, 18 year-old
Argentine. Dybala still remains the club’s most expensive signing, indicating
the huge potential he had.
had scored 17 goals in 38 games for Instituto before Palermo signed him. Unsurprisingly,
top clubs in Europe, such as: Napoli and Porto were also circling. Zamparini’s
persistence, and willingness to part with such a huge fee for a still unproven
talent enabled him to land his man.
should I say boy? Upon his arrival in Sicily, fans were greeted by a
freshly-faced youngster, with a slender fame and distinct lack of facial hair. U
Picciriddu or ‘The Kid’ had arrived.
Maurizio Zamparini, the owner of Palermo, dubbed him as
“the new Aguero”. Despite the expectation, and large fee paid for the forward,
Dybala failed to live up to Zamparini’s bold predictions in his first season in
In 27 Serie A games U Picciriddu managed only three
goals. Palermo were relegated, having picked up a measly 32 points. It seemed
that Dybala really still was a kid.
The following season saw Dybala deployed in a deeper
position, as he was handed the task of creating chances for Palermo’s infamous
striking duo of Kyle Lafferty and Abel Hernandez.
Dybala’s campaign this time around offered much more
promise than his previous one. Five goals and six assists in a less advanced
position showed signs of the Argentine adapting to the Italian style of
football, something that he himself admitted was difficult. “It was tough to
adapt,” he said. “The football here is much faster, more physical and
With the help of Palermo’s attacking riches: Dybala,
Lafferty and Hernandez, the Sicilian club romped Serie B, and they were back in
the big time.
Dybala had just adapted to Italian football, but he would
now have to adapt to a new situation prior to the 2014/15 season.
Strikers Lafferty and Hernandez were shipped off to England
(Norwich and Hull respectively). Dybala was the man seen fit to replace them.
Attacking midfielder, Franco Vasquez returned to the club
following a successful loan spell at Rayo Vallecano. He and Dybala linked up to
form a devastating partnership. Palermo’s manager Beppe Iachini pitted them
both high up the pitch in a 3-5-2 formation.
Perhaps the doubts over Dybala’s ability and maturity
resurfaced again six weeks into the new campaign. Palermo were in the
relegation zone without a win, as the club picked up only three points from a
possible 18. Was this much responsibility on the fragile shoulders of the
This all changed in matchday seven, in what had turned out
to be a must-win for a Palermo side, already fighting for their Serie A life.
Midway through the first-half Palermo were given a
free-kick 25 yards out. The Kid was ready to become a man, and
single-handedly hurl Palermo out the relegation zone. It wasn’t to be. His
wicked, whipped free-kick looked to be curling its way into the top-left
corner, only to be denied by the woodwork.
Dybala’s luck changed on the cusp of half-time. He took a
short corner, receiving a one-two, before gliding past a defender into the
Cesena penalty area. He took one more touch to get the ball out of his feet,
and then elegantly placed the ball into the left-hand side of Cesena’s net. A
goal solely made by Dybala and his magic left-foot.
A lacklustre second-half performance eventually caught up
with Palermo as they needlessly conceded a penalty, which was duly converted.
Once again, it was Dybala who was dragging the Sicilians
out of trouble. His late pinpoint corner-kick was headed home by Gonzalez.
Iachini could breathe a huge sigh of relief as Palermo had the first victory of
Although Dybala failed to make much of an impact in Palermo’s
two following games, he found his form once again against Milan at the San
Siro, scoring the second goal in a famous 2-0 away win. That sparked a run of
five straight matches were Dybala was on the scoresheet.
The last of those, against Torino, was arguably the
Argentine’s finest performance of the season thus far.
In the opening stages of the game Dybala seized upon the
ball in midfield and skipped past a Torino challenge, before sliding the ball
20 yards across the pitch to find his team-mate, Rigoni, who tucked the ball
home. Palermo had the lead. That goal was quickly cancelled out by Josef
But, Dybala quickly wrestled back control of the game for
Palermo with a sublime goal. Left-back, Lazaar pinged a flighted ball to Dybala
as he found a yard of space in the Torino box. The Argentine effortlessly looped
the ball over his head with a delicate touch of his left boot. Now one-on-one
with the goalkeeper he volleyed the ball into the net, in a goal that typified
Dybala’s seemingly infinite ability. Once again though Palermo failed to hold
on to their lead. One thing they could hold onto though, was their confidence
that Dybala was turning into a world-class forward.
Three weeks later in matchday 17 and Dybala was still
having the same magnanimous impact on Palermo’s season. In the seven games
prior to Palermo’s match against Cagliari, Dybala had scored or assisted a goal
in his last seven Serie A games (five goals, four assists). He was undisputedly
Palermo’s talisman now.
That trend continued in Palermo’s 5-0 rout of Cagliari.
Dybala’s intelligent diagonal run was found by the pass of
Barreto, he was through on goal, before being flattened by the Cagliari
goalkeeper. Still, with both the confidence and responsibility he held, Dybala
stepped up to take the resulting penalty and thumped low into the bottom
Dybala’s second and Palermo’s fourth came as the result of
a fine scooped pass from Vasquez. On the half-volley, Dybala slammed the ball
home with his left foot.
The Argentine went on to score and assist a further eight
goals in the final months of the season. He finished the campaign with 13 goals
and 10 assists to his name, impeccable figures for someone so young.
So, Dybala had lived up to the hype of Zamperini. Although,
he was not “new Aguero”, he was just Dybala. The same Dybala that Juventus
decided to spend £36 million on in the summer of 2015.
Their decision was immediately justified by Dybala’s
performances, no more was he The Boy who had just landed in Italy. He
was a man, that revelled in responsibility.
In his first three seasons in Turin he was seen as the
jewel of Juventus’ attack. Dybala scored 52 and assisted 22 goals in 98 Serie A
matches, an outstanding record.
His best season was 2017/18 where he provided a goal or
assists every 90 minutes on average.
This all drastically changed in 2018/19, with the arrival
of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. Now Dybala is no longer the jewel of the
Juventus attack, but a spare piece, whose function is to feed the goal-hungry
Dybala major role has now vanquished, and no longer is
Juventus’ play suited to Dybala. Often last season the ball was quickly shifted
out to the left to find Ronaldo.
Last season he attained just 0.19 Expected Goals (xG) per
90- a far cry from his numbers in the prior season. Dybala finished the Serie A
season with a mere five goals, and five assists.
This season Dybala’s chances of consistent game-time do not
look like improving either. Ronaldo still occupies the key role in Juventus’
attack, and the returning Higuain has taken the starting position in both of la
Vecchia Signora’s opening Serie A games.
Recently, his former youth coach at Instituto, Francisco
Buteler, spoke upon Dybala’s difficult situation. “The arrival of Cristiano
Ronaldo stripped him of some of his importance and resulted in him losing
further confidence,” he stated. “From the moment he made his first-team debut
here at Instituto, he has been a protagonist on all of his teams, and now he
Dybala is no longer U Picciriddu who arrived on the shores of Sicily
in July 2012. He is soon to be 26, and if he wants to return to his rightful
place as one of Europe’s elite strikers, then he needs to regain his form from
his time at Palermo, at the first few years of his Juventus career.
course, how he does that is the difficult to answer? Whether he will go out to
another club, say Tottenham or Manchester United, or if he stays in Turin, one
thing is for certain. If Paolo Dybala is to be one of the best in the world
again, he needs to be the centre of his team, the man who holds the attacking responsibility.