[OP-ED]: Paulo Dybala: The Emerging Argentinean Jewel
There is no doubt. In Argentina, just by looking at the qualifying South American standings for the 2018 Russia World Cup people get nervous. The white and light blue squad ranks fifth with 22 points behind Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile.
It is true the present is uncertain, but the future, and not a very far one, is promising. The first positive note is that finishing fifth, Team Argentina would not qualify directly to the World Cup, but would play a playoff matchup against the champion of Oceania, which should not be a difficult opponent for the South Americans.
The other positive news gives hope to all Argentina. In the current European Champions League Paulo Dybla has proven to be one of the emerging stars of Planet Soccer. At only 23, the young attacker nicknamed “La Joya” (“The Jewel”) eclipsed fellow countryman Leo Messi in the meeting between their respective clubs, Juventus and Barcelona, in the quarterfinals of Europe’s top competition. The Italians defeated the Spaniards, 3-0, led by the two goals scored by Dybala in the first of the two games both squads faced each other.
In the semifinals’ first contest against Mónaco, the whole World witnessed again Dybala’s brightness. “The Jewel” did not score, but showed great field awareness and excellent offensive intelligence. Assisting with the back of his foot, the young star served the first goal to another Argentinean, striker Gonzalo Higuaín. His goal opened the scoreboard and led Juventus to a huge win in Mónaco, 2-0. After the victory, the Italians are virtually qualified for the tournament’s championship game.
For those who follow European soccer closely, Dybala’s explosion is not a surprise. Coming from local team Instituto de Córdoba, he can play as true striker, but feels more comfortable when is placed right behind the center forward. Dybala arrived at Italy’s Palermo in the 2012-2013 season when he was still 18 years old. Since his arrival, “The Jewel” showed great skills, but exploited in his third year in southern Italy, scoring 13 goals and providing 10 assists. After this sensational campaign, powerhouse Juventus signed him and he quickly became one of the top players in the squad from Torino.
Dybala’s last two great seasons have been followed closely by all of Europe big clubs, who started making him juicy offers. But Juventus was in a commanding position and the Italians renewed his contract until 2022, making him one of the top paid players in the continent with an average salary of over 7 million Euros per year.
Dybala has represented his country in only six official games. Earning a starting spot in a team with great offense like Argentina is quite difficult, and more so with the weak stability the South Americans have had at the head coach position since the last World Cup. Anyhow, the recent success achieved by the young player claims a place for him amongst the elite Argentinean offense. His country needs Dybala to secure a berth in Russia 2018.
If Argentina clears this first hurdle, the future looks very, very promising for the white and light blue squad. The 2018 World Cup should be the main challenge for a national team that will captivate us with a veteran star like Messi and an emerging jewel like Dybala playing by his side.