Scouting Report: Palermo's Dybala to become better than Lionel Messi?
Paulo Dybala increased his burgeoning profile with a superbly taken goal in Palermo's 1-1 draw away to Genoa on Monday. The young Argentinian picked up the ball on the right, skipped inside a challenge and curled a beautiful effort into the far corner of the net. It was his fifth goal of the Serie A campaign, and the third consecutive match in which he scored. Three years after arriving in Italy, he is beginning to make his mark.
D.o.B: November 15, 1993
Contract until: June 2016
Linked Clubs: Arsenal, Manchester United, Real Madrid
Dybala was born in Laguna Larga in the salubrious hills of Córdoba province -- from whence the likes of Javier Pastore, Pablo Aimar and Dybala's current Palermo teammate Franco Vazquez also hail. Dybala began his career at the local club in Laguna Larga before later joining the youth system of Instituto de Córdoba in the provincial capital. He moved permanently to the city at the age of 15 following the death of his father. By 17, he was ready for the first team.
His debut campaign in the second division coincided with River Plate's first-ever season outside the professional top flight. With Instituto spending most of the season embroiled in a top-of-the-table battle with the Buenos Aires giants, Dybala's reputation grew faster than it might have otherwise. Various clubs and third-party ownership groups circled at the end of a season in which he scored 17 goals, including two hat tricks.
Palermo eventually paid nearly 12 million euros to secure his services. Game time was fairly limited during his first season in Italy, with coach Gian Piero Gasperini reticent to field Dybala and Fabrizio Miccoli in unison. But Dybala performed well when called upon and scored twice against Sampdoria in one of his 11 starts. Following solid performances in Serie B last season, he has sprung into life back among the big boys.
He's eligible to represent his native Argentina, Italy (through his grandmother) and Poland (through his grandfather). He did not appear for Argentina at youth level, in part because Palermo refused to release him for the 2013 South American U20 Championship. Italy U21 coach Luigi Di Biagio considered calling him up earlier this year, while reports this week suggest that senior national team coach Antonio Conte is keen to persuade Dybala to pledge his allegiance to Italy.
He 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 Aguero and it is easy to see the resemblance. While he needs to bulk up a little to be quite as menacing as the Manchester City striker, his acceleration, balance and finishing ability are certainly cut from similar cloth.
- Intelligent movement
- Excellent first touch
- Biased to left foot
- A little lightweight
Tackling: Not something he is regularly called upon to do. He has committed as many fouls as he had made successful tackles so far this season, which suggests it is not one of his strong points.
Marking: Works hard to help Palermo's high press when applied but otherwise conserves energy for his attacking movements.
Heading: At just 176 centimeters tall, he is not a commanding aerial presence. He does, though, possess a good leap and has shown himself to be capable of finding the back of the net with his head given suitable deliveries.
Close control: Good close control and impressive balance on the turn to spin away from challenges. Produced a delightful first touch inside a defender to put himself through on goal for a good chance well-saved in the draw with Genoa.
Passing: Dropped off the front and helped link play more often at Instituto than he has subsequently at Palermo. Decent vision and technically proficient in completing his passes. Prone to the odd loose first time lay-off under pressure.
Positioning: Excellent movement across the attacking line. Constantly seeks opportunities to pull onto the shoulder of the last defender to latch onto passes in behind or into the channels. Positions himself intelligently to receive the ball when he drops off the front.
Crossing: Generally provides good quality deliveries from wide areas. His two assists so far this season came from a low cross and an in-swinging corner respectively.
Finishing: Strikes the ball very crisply off his left foot, making him a threat from both inside and outside the area. Generally an instinctive penalty-box finisher. Less clinical when played in behind and given time to think about his finish.
What The Experts Say
Palermo coach Giuseppe Iachini: "Dybala has grown a lot as a player, and can continue to do so if he keeps working with humility. He has improved a lot both in terms of technique and in a physical sense."
Watched a player last night who's going to be a star Palermos Argentine Dybala remember the name!!- Philip Neville (@fizzer18) November 25, 2014
3rd game in a row Dybala has scored. 5th of the season. Still, 21. Coming good + beginning to repay the €11.9m Palermo spent 2 years ago- James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) November 24, 2014
Dybala's first car was a black SEAT León given to him by his childhood friend and fellow footballer Silvio Romero (currently of Lanus).
When Dybala arrived at Palermo, the supporters nicknamed him "Picciriddu" after the Sicilian term for a young boy. Like Pastore and Edinson Cavani before him, Sicily has proved to be a gateway into European football for the young Cordobés. He has grown both personally and as a player and is now starting to show his quality.
Palermo president Mauricio Zamparini is certainly smitten and he told Mediaset television recently: "Within two years, he's going to be better than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It would take 40 million euros to take him away from us."
Zamparini is clearly prone to hyperbole but that shouldn't take away from Dybala's obvious potential. Arsenal have been linked, while Italy's interest in securing him at international level demonstrates their faith in his ability.
Dybala has recently stated that he is happy to extend his Palermo contract, but if he continues to perform well and score goals of the calibre of his strike against Genoa his list of suitors is only going to grow.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.