Juventus' Paulo Dybala has what it takes to match Barcelona legend Lionel Messi and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo

Adam Digby 11/09/2017
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The real deal: Dybala.

For 53 minutes, Chievo battled hard. As they always do, the Veronese side took on one of Serie A’s giant clubs and played the role of spoilers, looking to slow down the game and turn it into a physical battle.

Sure, they trailed 1-0 thanks to an unfortunate own goal, but they had frustrated a Juventus team who were unable to add a crucial second goal despite possessing far superior players to their opponents.

Then Max Allegri sent on Paulo Dybala. The 23-year-old had been left on the bench to recover from his long flight back from international duty with Argentina, but the Coach recognised the need to introduce him with 37 minutes remaining.

What followed was a devastating display of clinical attacking football, the man known as La Joya – “The Jewel” – sparkling even in the midst of a foul Turin storm. The rain-soaked Juventus Stadium became a stage for Dybala’s latest virtuoso performance, Chievo simply having no answer for his slaloming runs and incredible sleight-of-foot.

Time and time again he drove through the centre of the pitch, carving open a previously resolute defence who simply could not stop him. Less than three minutes after coming on for Douglas Costa, he deftly controlled a high ball forward from Stephan Lichtsteiner, instantly turning and skipping beyond two would-be tacklers. He laid it off to Miralem Pjanić who cleverly reversed a pass to Gonzalo Higuain. The big No.9 made no mistake, slamming his shot beyond the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net. 2-0.

Replays showed that Dybala audaciously brought down that initial looping pass with his back, a piece of skill that shows just how much confidence the young Argentinian in his ability. He was not done there of course, adding a goal of his own when he once again danced his way through the defence before slipping the ball home.

“I’m fortunate enough to know him very well and I’m not remotely surprised by how well he’s doing,” Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino said when asked about his former Palermo team-mate by Mediaset Premium. “I was able to play with Dybala for two and a half years, so imagine the number of times I had to fly to my right and left in training! He can still improve a great deal and will become the best. He has everything it takes to win the Ballon d’Or – I just hope when it happens, he invites me to the party.”

The idea of Dybala claiming the sport’s highest individual accolade is certainly gathering momentum, boosted by his lightening fast start to the new season. He has already bagged five league goals in just 216 minutes of action, while also netting a brace in the Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio.

Before that clash it was announced that he would switch from No.21 to No.10, a shirt among the most prestigious in the game. Omar Sivori, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and of course Alessandro Del Piero are among the iconic stars to have previously worn it, the latter the last man to score five goals in Juve’s first three games of a season.

With that feat matched, focus now turns to Barcelona as Juventus travel to Camp Nou for a Champions League appointment with Lionel Messi and co. The Blaugrana were despatched by the Italian side at the quarterfinal stage last term, Dybala netting twice in a 3-0 home win before a 0-0 draw in the second leg.

Few would bet on him and Juve to leave Catalonia without a goal this time around however, while Barca must hope their defenders can chase Dybala more successfully than their directors did this summer. Identified as a replacement for Neymar, the Bianconeri simply rebuffed every approach, both the player and club happy to not even discuss the possibility of an exit.

“Dybala is improving a great deal and has everything it takes to become, along with Neymar after Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, one of the best players in the world,” Allegri told reporters after the final whistle against Chievo. “His future is with Juventus and I’m very happy with that!”

The Tuscan Coach certainly should be. This was not the first time Paulo Dybala has single-handedly put an opponent to the sword while wearing those famous black and white stripes, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Barca have already watched him tear through their defence once in 2017, will we see a repeat on Tuesday?

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PSG ready to finally make Champions League mark at Celtic

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Paris Saint-Germain kick off their latest bid for Champions League glory at Celtic on Tuesday bolstered by the big-money signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

The French giants will be hoping that their lavish close-season spending can help finally achieve their Qatari owners’ dream of lifting the European Cup.

PSG responded to last season’s disappointments of losing the Ligue 1 title to Monaco and their stunning Champions League last-16 defeat at Barcelona, by smashing the world record transfer fee with the 222 million-euro ($267m) signing of Neymar from Barca.

While Qatar’s billions produced four consecutive French titles from 2013-2016, that form has yet to translate to European competition.

PSG’s last, and only, Champions League semi-final appearance was in 1995, with four straight last-eight exits followed by the harrowing 6-1 second-leg loss at the Camp Nou earlier this year, having beaten Barca 4-0 in the first game.

But with the additions of Neymar and Mbappe, hopes are high that Unai Emery’s men can put their continental troubles to bed.

“We are more than ready for the Champions League,” said defender Thomas Meunier after a 5-1 thrashing of Metz on Friday.

“We are a very good group, we can see that on the bench today with all the options we have.
“Every footballer plays for the Champions League, and with the team we have this year, we must show the world that we want to go further than in previous years.”

Teenage sensation Mbappe joined from Monaco on deadline day on a season-long loan, with an option to buy for a fee that could reach a staggering 180 million euros.

“It’s too early to say (how far we can go), we haven’t even played yet,” said Mbappe, who scored on his debut against Metz.

“We have a good team and a lot of confidence, but we know that there’s still a lot of work to do. We’ll go to Glasgow to win and to start well.

“I’ve always said that the Champions League is a special competition, it is the competition for the big players and where we see the big players.”

PSG will have their European credentials tested by what promises to be a spine-tingling atmosphere at Parkhead, as Celtic look to cause an upset in Group B after an underwhelming return to the Champions League group stages last season.

Brendan Rodgers’ men have gone from strength to strength since the turn of the year, and are unbeaten in their last 54 domestic matches.

“What we’ve learned from our first game of the Champions League last year is that we’re not going to be as passive,” said Rodgers.

“They’re (PSG) a world away from where we’re at in terms of finances but it’s going to be an incredible night.

“It’s the first game of the Champions League against one of the great teams now of the competition, it will be another special night at Celtic Park.

“We’ll look forward to the challenge and we’ll recover well and prepare well for it.”

PSG’s fellow wannabee members of the European elite, Manchester City, came unstuck with a 3-3 draw at Celtic Park last season, and the Scottish champions still have the potential to be a danger on home turf.

While Celtic won the 1967 European Cup with a 15-man squad made purely of players born within 30 miles of their stadium, Paris have flung an expensive net far and wide in an attempt to emulate the likes of the ‘Lisbon Lions’.

Over 50 years since Celtic’s finest hour, PSG are fed up of waiting to dine at football’s top table.

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Mbappe revels in joining star-studded PSG line up after starring in Metz win

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Kylian Mbappe.

Kylian Mbappe marked his Paris St Germain debut with a memorable strike and revealed his joy at joining a European heavyweight.

Mbappe, who arrived from Monaco during the transfer window and will cost his new employers £166million next summer, joined the world’s most expensive player Neymar (£198m) and Edinson Cavani in attack for the first time during Friday’s 5-1 win at Metz.

The 18-year-old France striker marked the occasion with a brilliantly taken goal, blasting home first time after his own scooped pass was cleared, with Neymar adding a brilliant curled effort and Cavani scoring twice.

Reflecting on the sharp understanding between his new colleagues, which improved considerably after Benoit Assou-Ekotto was harshly dismissed for a foul on the teenager, he told Canal Plus: “I always wanted to play with great players, I had the opportunity to play with what is best in France and perhaps in Europe.

“I will try to learn from their movements, their professionalism. All I wanted to do is be at the ground. I was very happy, I had a lot of fun, the rest I will manage to adapt to.”

Of his first strike in PSG colours he added: “It was a nice goal, I wanted to pass Ney, the defender intercepts, I react faster than my opponent and I power it in.”

Metz gave a good account of themselves in a mismatched top-versus-bottom clash, going in level at half-time thanks to Emmanuel Riviere, who then missed a golden chance to make it 2-1 to the hosts.

The tenor of the evening changed emphatically, and for good, when Assou-Ekotto saw red and, with replays suggesting he won the ball, Mbappe gave a measured account of the incident.

“A red card? I do not know but it was dangerous. But when you are in action, it’s hard to judge,” he said.

“I do not see him coming, he tackles me and it can be more dangerous. I don’t blame him.”

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