Italian Serie A

Published on January 2nd, 2018 | by Peter Coates

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Being cruel is being kind to Paulo Dybala at crossroads in career

Criticisms of a lack of professionalism and a spell on the bench might just be what Paolo Dybala needed to refocus on becoming a world-beater 

When Paulo Dybala inspired Juventus to victory against Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final last April the world took notice and declared that Lionel Messi had his heir. A blistering start to the Serie A season only fueled such talk but things have since dipped and amid rumours of a rift at Juventus, Massimiliano Allegri has urged caution over the 23-year-old’s match winning display at the weekend.

When Dybala instinctively swept in Stephan Lichtsteiner’s cut-back to restore Juve’s lead away to Hellas Verona it was the forward’s first Serie A goal since November 19th and with the boost to his confidence, Dybala darted through the defence to add a second five minutes later.

It was a welcome return to form after Dybala’s slump had seen Allegri drop him to the bench and spark rumours of off-field problems and possible transfers away from Turin.

Juventus icon and vice-president Pavel Nedved hardly helped matters when hinting Dybala’s life away from the pitch could be the issue.

“I’d advise him to focus on his football, make lots of sacrifices in his private life and train to the maximum,” the former Ballon d’Or winner warned.

In light of Allegri not selecting Dybala for the Derby d’Italia draw with Serie A leaders Inter, Nedved’s suggestion only served to intensify speculation but the Juve manager swiftly downplayed the comments.

“Rather than criticising Dybala, I would call Nedved’s words tips. He is a vice-president who has played football and there’s some advice there.

“Dybala is an extraordinary boy but he is not even 24 and has great room for growth. You just have to train and stay focused.”

Tempering expectation appears to be Allegri’s aim and rightly so after the hyperbole that was swept up during Dybala’s best moments in a Juve shirt. Few could doubt the 23-year-old’s talent and he is capable of match-winning moments of magic but what separates the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom Dybala was temporarily put on a par with, is the consistency and longevity that they achieve.

“The relationship with him [Dybala] absolutely hasn’t changed, also because Dybala came to Juventus three years ago and I think he’s grown a lot, Juventus put even more emphasis on his qualities and he’s given a lot to Juventus,” Allegri was quick to shoot-down suggestions that he had fallen out with the young Argentinian.

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“In my opinion, he still has huge margins for improvement. The comparisons which were made at the start [of the season] were damaging for Paulo, but fortunately he’s a smart lad and he understands you can’t compare a lad of 24 to two sacred monsters of football [Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo], who have won 10 Ballons d’Or.

“Plus there’s Neymar who is another that is close. So Paulo has to make his own way and not be compared to any other player

“He has his own qualities, he’s an extraordinary player. You just have to watch him to see he’s different from the others.”

Allegri’s complaint is valid and the manager made the clarification that this is an issue not exclusive to Dybala but one in which the insatiable desire to unearth the next big thing sees young players rapidly built up to be world class only in some cases to disappoint equally quickly.

“It’s not just Dybala, Dybala is the least of that problem,” Allegri continued,” There are lads who play half an hour and the next day they’re worth €40 million.

“‘The future of Italian football is this lad, we’ve found the new Andrea Pirlo…no. There was only one Pirlo, and it will be many years before another Pirlo is born.

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“Lads have to be left to grow, for a player to be great he has to show it in at least 100 matches in Serie A. Not 100 appearances, 100 matches. Right now after two games we throw everything on these lads.

“I understand that the world has changed, but it’s too much, and it’s normal that they can get lost in it. How many of these lads have been lost in the arc of their careers?”

This line of thinking is important when discussing any young player and Dybala still falls into that bracket despite racking up experience in Serie A since his move from Instituto in 2012.

It is also in line with Allegri’s comments shortly after Juve signed Dybala for a potential €40 million in 2015 as the 50-year-old coach showed some distain towards the transfer fee when slowly introducing Dybala into the first team. Despite calls from supporters to start their new signing, Allegri brushed off any other opinions by stating it wasn’t his fault that Juve paid so much.

Allegri’s treatment of Gonzalo Higuaín and Mario Mandzukic when enduring similar dips shows a manager willing to drop players to the bench and taking things at face value Dybala appears to have experienced the same.

Provided Dybala heeds the advice of Nedved and Allegri, the future is still incredibly bright. Juve’s win away to Hellas Verona was a first since 2001 and Dybala’s return back among the goals rightfully earned him praise.

After it would appear forgetting his own words, Allegri said, “When Messi and Ronaldo get older, it will be Neymar and Dybala who will be the best players in the world.”

And that could still remain very true. Almost every player experiences these dips and how they react is the sign of a true great. Dybala did that last weekend and now with his confidence back, La Joya can focus on returning to his best, helping Juve to another successful season and answering the questions asked of him for Argentina.

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About the Author

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Peter is a British football writer living in Buenos Aires, who specialises on Argentine football. His passion for the game in South America took him to Argentina in 2011 and aside from starting his own site 'Golazo Argentino', he has covered the national side for The Independent and acts as WhoScored's expert on the Primera División.



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