Adolfo Dybala always wanted his children to become professional football players. Two older brothers could not make their father’s dream come true, so Adolfo decided to invest all possible resources into his youngest son, Paulo. Both of them had to drive 35 miles from their hometown, Laguna Larga, to Cordoba everyday. Laguna Larga was such a small town that there were no proper facilities for football players.
Unfortunately, Adolfo was never able to witness his son’s success: he died of pancreas cancer when Paulo was only 15 years old. Paulo stopped training in Cordoba by force of circumstances. He had to start playing for an amateur football club in his hometown. It could not last for too long as his talent was visible to the naked eye. FC Instituto offered him to move to their football base and cover all expenses.
As Paulo puts it about a tough period of his life, “I had to grow up early in my life. I could not let my father down, so I decided to concentrate on football and link my life with it.” His tenacity could not remain unrewarded: Paulo is the youngest player ever to play for the white-and-red1. FC Palermo (Serie A) noticed a little agile striker who easily made a fool of opponent’s defenders thanks to his dribbling skills. Arguably the most odious football president, Maurizio Zamparini, paid 12 (!) million euros for a diamond in the rough. This amount of money may seem small for PSG or Man City fans, but not for Palermo. Dybala’s transfer seemed very controversial to Palermo fans at the time but “u picciriddu”2 proved them wrong. Paulo’s name loudly thundered last season (2014/15) when he scored 13 goals and gave 12 assists. Italian journalists even compared him to the famous King Midas, a Greek mythology character that turned everything he touched into gold.
Paulo’s performance attracted big clubs’ attention: the transfer saga of Dybala turned into a soap opera and lasted for a few months. Eventually, Maurizio Zamparini received a €32 million paycheck from Juventus, but Dybala faced a tough mission: replace Carlos Tevez after Tevez’s departure to Boca Juniors. Everyone knows the role of Carlitos and how much he mattered for Juve. There was no time for swinging, and Paulo immediately started meeting Juve fans’ expectations. Today, La Joya’s3 goal+pas statistics is 18+8 in 30 games and he is only 3 goals behind Tevez’s record in the black-and-white jersey. There are 7 games left, so I would not be surprised if Paulo surpasses Tevez.
Paul Pogba gave the best description of Dybala’s game style: he calls him “Square R2” for his ability of completing finesse shots on the turn.
- White and red are the colors of Instituto FC
- U picciriddu (from Italian): a young boy, a little child
- La Joya (from Spanish): a diamond