Serie A is up and running with two eventful rounds already played in Italy. Juventus, champions six times in a row, has hit the ground running with two wins from two to set the pace at the top of the division with contenders Inter, Napoli and Milan also 100% victorious so far. There’s already been some great encounters, 54 goals have been scored, Leonardo Bonucci plays for Milan, the lovely Andrea Cossu is back in the league and Marco Borriello has scored for his 12th club. Despite all this, and so many other interesting storylines, I can’t overlook the magical football currently played by Paulo Dybala.
Dybala is by no means underrated or unknown anymore; his genius has now become common knowledge around Europe after some stellar performances in the Champions League. Scoring twice against Barcelona and out-performing Lionel Messi will do that. Still, the opening two matches of the league campaign has seen Dybala perform at an even higher level of performance than last season. In the opening two games, the Argentine maverick has scored four goals, averages four dribbles a game and takes six shot per 90 minutes. He’s been dominating. In fact, out of every single player in Europe, Neymar is the only player who has managed a higher performance score (9.35) at whoscored.com than Dybala’s 9.15 out of 10.
Against Genoa in the last game, Juve were once again overrun early on (just like last season) by the energetic and ultra-aggressive side coached by Ivan Juric. After seven minutes, Genoa were 2-0 up. Now, Dybala stepped up. Before the whistle for halftime, it was 2-2. Dybala had scored both. When the 90 minutes were up, the left-footed magician had added his third to clinch the win after Juan Cuadrado had given Juve the lead following a tremendous team move.
The first goal was a symbol of Dybala’s recent development in front of goal. He’s never really been a great goalscorer, rather a scorer of great goals, as despite decent goal returns his main contribution has been his playmaking, dribbling, vision and unrivalled creativity. As Miralem Pjanic played a one-two before going into the penalty area on the left, Dybala adjusted his position to become an option for a cutback. The Bosnian played the ball towards the Argentine, who took a few quick steps before meeting the ball with an emphatic right-foot finish to get one back. The killer instinct and intelligence was evident throughout the move, and there was never doubt about the finish.
The second goal came from the penalty spot just before halftime as Dybala stepped up with the chance to level the score. He took his time, picked his spot and unleashed a hard strike that flew into the top corner. Nerves? Not by any stretch.
With Juve 3-2 up in the second half following Cuadrado’s goal, Genoa were forced to attack and the game opened up even more. Juve would take advantage when Mandzukic and Higuain combined on the counter-attack to set up Dybala on the right side of the penalty area. Dybala controlled the pass with his right, took a quick touch with his left to set himself before quickly moving the ball inside to open up the potential curler towards the far post. He dropped his shoulder and everyone was probably expecting a curling effort but he instead hit a low, hard shot towards the near post which beat the goalkeeper and clinch a second straight win for Juventus.
Dybala is taking steps to becoming one of the very best footballers around and is increasingly in that company of the top five or ten attackers now. To overtake Messi and stake a claim for number 1 he needs to be more dominating and take control of games, and this is what it looks like he’s now doing. Juventus aren’t playing particularly well at the minute, compared to last year at least, but Dybala is winning games for them. That’s what he needs to do, and is what he’s currently doing.
With four goals in two games he shares the top scorer spot with countryman Mauro Icardi who has also started incredibly. That will be an interesting battle to follow too.