Can Paulo Dybala guide Juventus to continental glory?
He may be the leading star in Serie A, but there is still some work to do before Paulo Dybala can lead Juventus to a Champions League crown.
Dybala has established himself in recent years as the number one player in Italy’s top flight, and along the way dealt with the pressure of being the ‘new Lionel Messi’. However, the inability to raise his game in Europe’s elite competition has prevented him from being truly ranked alongside his compatriot.
Last season, he faced Barcelona and produced two goals in a stunning performance, as Dybala offered the greatest glimpse yet of his undoubted potential in terms of becoming a consistent performer on the biggest stage. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be just a glimpse, as he failed to show up in the rest of the tournament. Particularly in the final as Juventus were demolished by Real Madrid. Dybala seemed almost awestruck by the occasion and suffered from heavy touches and wasted passes.
It understandably raised doubts about his potential as an elite player, and even though he is just a 23-year-old, the pressure is there on him to produce at the level associated with the very best.
Fans, players -- including opponents, and his boss all believe Dybala has the ability to claim a Ballon d’Or. This season, he needs to make a strong statement. While both Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi remain peerless, they are entering an interesting stage of their careers where decline, or at least change, will set in. The onus is on the new school to step up, and Dybala is firmly amongst that pack.
“Dybala is improving a great deal and has everything it takes to become, along with Neymar after Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, one of the best players in the world,” stated Max Allegri. Indeed, how Allegri utilises the player over the course of this season might well be vital to his chances of mixing it with the very best.
Neymar for instance, a rival, will have freedom of the land at PSG. Allegri it seems, could be willing to allow Dybala more freedom in a bid to emphasise his own talent and progress the team of course.
An emphatic start to the season has seen the 23-year-old bag eight of Juventus’ 14 goals in Serie A. This, coming in just four appearances; an explosive beginning to what could be a memorable campaign for Dybala, on many levels. Juventus face their toughest test yet to remain Italy’s top dog, while escaping the perennial chokers tag in the Champions League is also on the table.
There may be a personal incentive for Dybala too. Talk of a move to Barca persists, and with Neymar now at PSG, it appears there could be an opening for an equally gifted attacking talent. Dybala has dealt with talk of such a move admirably, but at the same time matching Messi at the club level holds an enormous appeal. For Argentina, the pair have already featured together, much to the joy of Dybala who provided an assist to his idol in the game against Uruguay.
“Messi was my idol and I dreamt of playing with him,” Dybala told Corriere dello Sport. “The first time I did was an unforgettable emotion. The best moment was when I linked up with him and gave an assist for him to fire home.”
Dybala also needs to raise his level for Argentina, where pressure for places and general success is high. His idol is suffering and for many Dybala is seen as the antidote to that, a player who can provide Messi with the support he needs to help land Argentina an elusive trophy.
Largely, however, Dybala’s focus will be on Juventus. Dominating Serie A is one thing but the Champions League is another. No one doubts Dybala’s ability or potential, but sooner or later he must start showing more than what people generally expect.
The bar has been raised and Dybala needs to show he can grasp it rather than be in touching distance.