And so we finally reach the number one spot – the player judged to be the best Argentina has to offer. In case you missed it here is a recap so far:
All the players are eligible to play in the Olympic football tournament (born on or after 1 January 1993) and do not have to be playing their club football in Argentina. Debate between several of the Hand of Pod team has narrowed it down and as we get deeper into the countdown, some expert opinion will throw a bit more light on choices.
Feel free to comment as this is not a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination. There are some obvious names, hopefully some not so obvious names and probably double the amount that were mentioned but had to be cut.
It is really saying something when a relatively untested, young player can move to a club for a fee that could rise to €40 million and yet already be considered a bargain. Palermo president Mauricio Zamparini had previously claimed that this was his minimum value but even Paulo Dybala distanced himself from such a claim: “Not many players are worth that much and I’m certainly not among them.”
Whether the 22-year-old thought so or not, Serie A champions Juventus identified La Joya as the ideal long term replacement for the outgoing Carlos Tevez and after a slow start, the Bianconeri rapidly gathered momentum setting a new league record winning streak and with Dybala’s valuation virtually doubled in the space of six months.
The debate over whether Juve overpaid for a player who had scored only 21 times in three years with Palermo has now shifted to whether Dybala will soon be joining the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the pinnacle of world football.
Since bursting into the first team of his hometown club, Instituto at seventeen, Dybala has been a much sought after young player and after only one season, his goal scoring accomplishments persuaded Palermo to invest heavily. Zamparini forever talked about the forward in the same breath as the game’s greats but on the pitch, it was seen only in patches as Dybala and Palermo struggled for consistency. More than anything else it seemed the often deluded Zamparini was simply attempting to drive up the price and when Juve matched his valuation it appeared to have worked.
Even Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri appeared to think it was steep and in the opening ten matches as the Bianconeri fell to four defeats, Dybala was used sparingly. Allegri faced criticism and responded by saying, “it’s not my fault if the club paid €40 million.”
Juve were way off the pace and the chances of a fifth consecutive scudetto appeared slim.
Since a defeat to Sassuolo at the end of October, Juve won fifteen matches on the bounce before recording a solitary draw during a 26-game unbeaten run that ended in the title and with Paulo Dybala at the centre.
Nineteen goals and nine assists from 29 Serie A appearances highlight the two aspects of his game: goalscorer and creator in almost equal measure.
Dropping deep to pick up the ball and link play there is a similarity with Juve’s former hero, Carlos Tevez but while El Apache brings physicality and an unerring desire to win; Dybala exhibits a grace and a precision that Tevez lacks.
Now a member of Gerardo Martino’s Argentina squad it seems inconceivable for Dybala to lose his place but it’s his potential that really excites. Tevez arrived in Turin a 29-year-old Copa Libertadores, three-time Premier League and Champions League winner; Dybala as something of a gamble, yet to prove his worth at the highest level. The 22-year-old has done that now and the question remains just how far can he go?
Adam Digby – Italian football writer for beIN / FourFourTwo / Sport360 and author of ‘Juventus: A History In Black & White’ @Adz77 “Paolo Dybala arrived at Juventus weighed down by both his €32 million price tag and the prospect of replacing Carlos Tevez, but took little time to prove he was worthy of both. His creativity and workrate were comparable to his now departed compatriot, while his left foot routinely delivered moments of magic to delight Juventus supporters. Still just 22 years old, the prospect of him leading the Bianconeri attack in the coming years is a mouthwatering one for those same fans, fortunate to watch a simply stunning talent mature before their eyes.”
Nick Dorrington via ESPN FC @chewingthecoca “Dybala is a hybrid between a penalty-box finisher and a classic second-striker. His slight frame and ball skills are better suited to the latter role but his sharpness inside the area and ability to stretch opposing defences with intelligent movement make him capable of performing well as the furthest forward player. His playing style has been likened to that of Sergio Agüero and it is easy to see the resemblance as his acceleration, balance and finishing ability are certainly cut from similar cloth.”
Palermo president Mauricio Zamparini “He’s going to be better than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”