How big a deal is Juventus forward Paulo Dybala?

Two goals against Barcelona have brought Paulo Dybala back to international attention, but just how excited should we be about Juventus's left-footed marvel?

Paulo Dybala celebrates one of his two goals against Barcelona on Tuesday
Paulo Dybala celebrates one of his two goals against Barcelona on Tuesday ©AFP/Getty Images

A massive prospect by most estimates, Paulo Dybala is skilful, hard-working and a brilliant dribbler; he confirmed that his finishing is pretty amazing, too, with two goals against Barcelona. How good is he? UEFA.com weighs up the evidence.

The expert testimony
"I call Dybala 'Square R2'. That's the combination you press on PlayStation to do a turn and shot. He always scores like that. Has he surprised me? No, because I always said he was a phenomenon. To do what he has done, playing for Juve, is something phenomenal."
Paul Pogba, former Juventus team-mate

"He is good enough to be in the top five players in the world and wouldn't be out of place in the top three. He has come on enormously over the last two years. But now he needs to prove his class on a regular basis – he needs to show that he deserves the expectations we have for him."
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus team-mate

Dybala and Messi together at international level
Dybala and Messi together at international level©Getty Images

"Paulo is a great player with a big future. I'm sure he will give people a lot to talk about in the coming years."
Lionel Messi, Barcelona forward

"I don't like comparisons with other players. He has a very good left foot but I'm sure he still has a great margin for improvement, like all the other players."
Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus coach

Highlights: Five great goals from Argentina
Highlights: Five great goals from Argentina

The back story
▪ Born in Laguna Larga, Argentina, Dybala's family has Polish and Neapolitan blood (his grandfather, Bolesław Dybała, came from a village 70km from Krakow), while he told UEFA.com he might have played for Italy too: "My grandmother's mother was from near Naples, so I love Italy, but I feel completely Argentinian."

▪ Started his career at home-town club Instituto AC Córdoba, sleeping at the club's facilities after his father died when Dybala was 15 (earning the nickname 'el pibe de la pensión' – the guest-house boy).

▪ At 17, became Córdoba's youngest-ever goalscorer – breaking Argentina great and FIFA World Cup winner Mario Kempes's record. Dubbed 'La Joya' (the Jewel) after his maiden season, he joined Palermo in 2012, and left for Juventus in 2015, telling UEFA.com: "I will miss the sea and the fish [but] playing in the UEFA Champions League is every player's dream, and mine too."

Highlights: Watch Juventus goals against Barcelona
Highlights: Watch Juventus goals against Barcelona

The evidence
▪ Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini first announced the striker's arrival with the words: "We have got Paulo Dybala – the new Sergio Agüero." Former AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who coached him in Sicily from June to August 2013, said: "You need just a second to realise he is from another planet."

▪ He is small but tough. Of his time under 'Ringhio' (Growl – Gattuso's nickname), Dybala said: "He considered me a No10 and in training he was my marker. If I managed to beat him, then he knocked me down. I learned how to defend the ball with my body and to be faster than my opponents."

▪ That might explain how Dybala became so robust. He has toughed his way through 27 league games or more in all of his senior seasons – 165 matches in total – and scored 65 league goals. At the same age, Lionel Messi had scored 64 (though he had played only 153 Liga games).

▪ Was reportedly courted by a number of English clubs in 2015 (and also told an Argentinian radio show: "I would swim to Barcelona if they came knocking"). Joined Juve, though, saying: "The day I heard Juventus were interested in me my mind was made up."

Dybala is making Pirlo's old number his own
Dybala is making Pirlo's old number his own©Getty Images

▪ Inherited Andrea Pirlo's No21 shirt in Turin and did it proud. After scoring his first free-kick for Juventus against Verona in January 2016, he said: "Maybe [Pirlo] left some of his magic in the No21 shirt."

▪ Comparisons with Messi have not been welcome, but it is worth noting that by the age of 23 years and 147 days (Dybala's age when he struck twice against Barcelona on Tuesday) Messi had scored 30 UEFA Champions League goals and 15 at senior international level; Dybala has scored five in the UEFA Champions League and, as yet, none for Argentina.

▪ Do not draw too many conclusions from the fact that he has been used so sparingly for Argentina; in order to carve out a starting place up front, he has to prove he is more effective than Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergio Agüero.

Who was that masked man?
Who was that masked man?©AFP/Getty Images

▪ He has established his own playing identity with his trademark 'mask' goal celebration. A post on his Facebook page explained: "When we struggle, sometimes we must wear our warrior mask to be stronger, without losing our smile and kindness!"

The take-home quotes
"People need to understand that I am Paulo Dybala and that's who I want to continue to be. I understand the comparisons and expectations on me but I do not want to be the new Messi or the Messi of the future."

"Obviously, I dream of winning the Champions League. But to become a world champion with Argentina would make me completely crazy."

"Since I arrived in Italy, people have compared me with several players. Someone said I was like Vincenzo Montella, someone else spoke about Rooney or Agüero, but I think I'm just a pretty classical Argentinian forward and all I want is to be myself."

"I'm the kind of player who is never satisfied on the pitch. If I score twice, I'm already thinking about getting a third one."

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