Name: Paulo Dybala
Born: November 15, 1993, in Laguna Larga, Cordoba, Argentina
Pro Club: Juventus
Why is he in the news?
At 23, Dybala is one of the most exciting and dynamic young players in the world, and he has played a key role this season in helping Juventus win a sixth consecutive Serie A title and qualify for the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
It’s not very often that Lionel Messi is overshadowed in a game by one of his countrymen, but that’s exactly what Dybala did in the first leg of the quarterfinals between Juventus and Barcelona when he bagged a brace. He’ll be looking to go one better by outperforming Messi’s greatest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, in Saturday’ final in Cardiff.
He’s special because
The list of current players who can genuinely be considered world class is small, but Dybala makes the cut. Considered the heir apparent to Lionel Messi, the Argentine ace combines creative genius, technical ability and an eye for goal. He makes up for a lack of size with his nimbleness and balance, which he uses to great effect to control the ball in tight spaces.
Dybala is also very versatile, and can play as a forward, a playmaker, a winger, an attacking midfielder, a supporting striker or as a false-9. His vision, passing and link-up play make him a devastating creator who can play teammates into dangerous scoring positions.
Dybala made his professional debut as a 17-year-old with hometown club Instituto Atlético Central Córdoba in Argentina’s second division. He played 40 games with the modest outfit before making the move across the pond, signing with Italian club Palermo in 2012. After two relatively quiet campaigns in Sicily, he broke out during the 2014-15 season when he scored 13 goals and added 10 assists.
Big clubs across Europe took notice and began to line up to sign him, but it was Juventus that won out, paying Palermo a reported €40 million transfer fee. He finished second in the Serie A scoring race with 19 goals, and helped Juve win a fifth consecutive league title in 2015-16. Juve signed Gonzalo Higuain last off-season, which meant he became the focal point of the attack, scoring a club-high 24 goals. Still, Dybala contributed 11 goals in Serie A as Juve won the title, and he scored another four in the Champions League to help the Turin giants make it to the final.
His most famous moment
The mercurial Argentine bagged a brace in Juventus’ 3-0 win over Barcelona at home in the first leg of this season’s Champions League quarterfinals, a result that alerted the rest of the field that the Serie A side was a serious contender.
In the seventh minute, Dybala took a pass from Juan Cuadrado, turned and quickly fired a shot past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and inside the far post. He added a second goal just 15 minutes later, this time hitting slamming home a one-timer off a setup from Mario Mandzukic
Here’s a few interesting facts
• His full name is Paulo Bruno Exequiel Dybala.
• His nickname is nickname, la Joya – “the Jewel.”
• Dybala was eligible to play for both Italy and Poland, but decided to represent Argentina, making his debut for La Albiceleste in 2015.
• At 17, he was the youngest player to score for Instituto, beating the club record held by Argentina legend Mario Kempes.
• He was sent off in the first half of a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in 2016 after picking up a second yellow card.
What they’re saying about him
“I call Dybala ‘Square R2.’ That’s the combination you press on PlayStation to do a turn and shot. He always scores like that.” – Paul Pogba, former Juventus teammate.
He said it
I have watched the movie maybe 30 times. It taught me that, in life, there are times when you have to stand up and fight. It also showed me that it is not wise to get caught up in unnecessary battles. That’s why, when people compare me to someone like Messi, I say there are no comparisons. He has already done what I am now trying to do – like winning the Champions League.” – Dybala, on watching Gladiator, starring Russel Crowe.