With Juve tying Paolo Dybala down with a new deal to 2022 after a headline-grabbing display against Barca, comparisons with Leo Messi are way off the mark
There is only one big discussion taking place on Italian newspapers, radio, television and blogs this week: is Juventus’ Paulo Dybala better than Lionel Messi? Or can he, at least, become better than Messi?
The comparisons between Dybala and the Barcelona superstar have been ongoing ever since the young Argentinian has been on the scene, let alone because of the physical similarities – both not particularly tall, and both left-footed – and for the common nationality. But after his Champions League brace against Barcelona, Dybala has shown he can be at his best against the best.
It is an interesting comparison, and paves the way for further analysis. Firstly, Messi did not score against Juventus on Tuesday night, but delivered at least two brilliant assists: had his team-mates converted them into goals, Dybala’s and Juve’s night as a whole would have been quite different. The former Palermo striker had a wonderful night, but it’s not like Messi bottled it.
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Then, there’s another factor: why compare someone considered amongst the three best players of all time, with Pelè and Diego Maradona, with a young star still growing? It’s almost unfair. Dybala has a long way to go still, and the feeling is Messi is one of those monsters, someone from another planet, that is born once every 30 years.
A good, and fairer, way to compare the two is by looking at their careers at the same age. Dybala on the night of the brace against Barcelona was 23 years, 4 months and 28 days old.
At that age, Messi had played 232 games with Barcelona, scoring 146 goals and having already won one Champions League, one Club World Cup, one European Super Cup, two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey and one Spanish Super Cup. Frankly, unbelievable. This is without counting his first two seasons, when he had a marginal role.
And only six months later he would have lifted his second Champions League. Messi also counted already a Ballon d’Or, with another one coming in only a month later. He had won a FIFA World Player and had been top scorer in two editions of the Champions League and once in La Liga. With Argentina he had already played 54 matches, scoring 15 goals and winning the 2008 Olympic Gold. Simply, unique.
Dybala’s career so far is not comparable. If it must be said that Messi has always played in one of the best teams in the history of the beautiful game, Dybala has only been in a top club for two seasons. Having mentioned this, he has won one Serie A title, one Coppa Italia, one Italian Super Cup (all with Juve) and a Serie B crown with Palermo.
The Argentinean has played 213 professional games, scoring 77 times. With his national team, Argentina, he counts zero goals in six games, and has five goals in the Champions League. If you look at the numbers, there is no comparison.
It is part of the fun, and the media industry, to create the “new” someone, and a “new Messi” will eventually be a necessity. Dybala is left-footed, Argentinian, and very very skilled, so can remind people of the great Leo. A reminder, though, that is all. To reach Messi he would have had to be from another planet, and it just doesn’t look like it.