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.
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) September 11, 2017
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.
Paulo Dybala CONTROLLED THE BALL WITH HIS BACK in the build up to Gonzalo Higuain's goal yesterday… https://t.co/QgUgZQTCDC
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) September 11, 2017
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.
It’s been a while since a Juventus player started the season as well as Paulo Dybala has 🔥 pic.twitter.com/LY8bY9B51s
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 9, 2017
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?