“He will become like Messi,” screamed the headline of Corriere dello Sport on Monday morning. No pressure then, Paulo Dybala.
While Gonzalo Higuaín scored two goals for the fifth time in seven Serie A games this weekend to keep Napoli top of the table, his Argentinian compatriot Dybala was inspiring Juventus to a tenth straight win, keeping them just two points behind, with a pair of his own in the 4-0 win at Udinese.
It was not just Corriere dello Sport that was singing his praises. “San Paulo” – Saint Paulo – was headline of Turin-based Tuttosport, while Gazzetta dello Sport draw comparisons with other famous Bianconeri attackers from Argentina like Omar Sivori and Carlos Tévez.
“After 20 games he has already scored 11 goals, just like ‘the Apache’ [Tévez] in his first season at Juve.”
“We played well,” said Dybala after the comfortable victory in Udine. “We are in a great spell and we want to continue on this path. We know that it won’t be easy to win the Scudetto because Napoli and Inter are great sides. Higuaín is a real champion, he is doing great things and deserves every credit, but if we continue like this we can certainly give joy to our fans.”
Juventus had a difficult start to the campaign after the departure of players including Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and Tévez in the summer. Dybala, however, is somehow managing to fill more than one hole left by the departing stars from the UEFA Champions League finalists.
Not only has the 22-year-old, signed in 2015 from Palermo, managed to replace the leadership of Tévez in attack but now he is also starting to take the mantle of Pirlo as set-piece specialist after taking over his famed squad number.
“Maybe he left some of his magic in the No21 shirt,” Dybala said after his first free-kick goal against Verona on 6 January. Yesterday he repeated the trick to open the scoring at Udinese with another well-taken set-piece.
“I’m happy because my free-kick opened up the game and after taking the lead we played well with more space,” Dybala explained. “I have experienced some very good times with this team but certainly this is one of the best.”
Coach Massimiliano Allegri – who was able to rest Paul Pogba in midfield against Udinese – said of Dybala:
“He has improved a lot but 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.
“We were lacking many things in the first part of the season, good results most of all, but I was never worried because I knew we had changed a lot in the summer and we needed just a little time to adapt,” Allegri continued. “There still is plenty of work to do, we need to keep on improving.”
Not least because Bayern München are waiting for the Bianconeri in the UEFA Champions League round of 16. The perfect occasion for Dybala to also open his European account?