Champions League

Rising star Dybala is Messi's mirror image

2017-04-18 09:23
Paulo Dybala.(Getty Images)

Barcelona - Diminutive, dynamic and armed with a deadly left foot, Paulo Dybala could be a prototype of a Lionel Messi clone.

The similarities between the two Argentines, who face off in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg between Juventus and Barcelona, have been noted by Dybala's strike partner Gonzalo Higuain among others.

The fact that Argentina now looks for the next Messi rather than the next Diego Maradona is as good a testament to the five-time world player of the year's achievements as any.

Hundreds of talented number 10s were christened as Maradona's heir before Messi turned even the "Hand of God" into distant memory.

"Messi is the best, he shows it every day," said Higuain, who joined Juventus in a fractious transfer from Napoli for 90 million euros ($96 million) at the start of the season and has played alongside Messi for most of his 68 Argentina caps.

"Paulo is still young. He is 23 and has the world at his feet," he told Premium Sport.

The younger man won the battle in the first leg last week with a quickfire first-half double as Juventus claimed a commanding 3-0 lead.

However to win the war, the Italian champions must resist for 90 minutes at the Camp Nou to prevent another famous Barcelona comeback.

The Catalans overcame a record 4-0 first-leg deficit by beating Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the second leg at home in the last 16.

"It's one of my greatest nights in football," said Dybala after the first leg. "Let's not ruin it now."

Last week in Turin was only the second time Dybala and Messi have graced the same pitch.

The first time was a far unhappier experience for Dybala as he was sent off on his first start for Argentina.

A tearful Dybala was consoled and bailed out by his captain that night as Messi scored the only goal in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay last September.

DREAMS ACHIEVED

"Messi told me to be calm, that these things happen and that it was the referee's fault," Dybala said afterwards.

Yet, even a red card brought comparisons to Messi as he too was sent off for the only time in his career just minutes into his Argentina debut.

Dybala's big break in the national team could yet come due to another piece of uncharacteristic Messi indiscipline.

Messi is banned for three of Argentina's four remaining games of a floundering World Cup qualifying campaign, with Dybala clearly the most natural replacement.

Even despite seeing red that night in Mendoza, Dybala achieved a long-awaited "dream".

"My dream was to play a one-two with him and I managed to do that," he said. "It is incredible to play by his side."

Higuain knows more than most about the joys and pressures of playing next to Messi.

The former Real Madrid man is often derided as the reason Messi has failed to win a major international trophy having missed gilt-edged chances in the 2014 World Cup and 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals.

Matching Messi is an almost impossible task. At 23, he had already won the Ballon d'Or and is now just two goals off a remarkable 500 for Barcelona.

However, Higuain recognises a common talent and points to Messi's consistency as the goal for his teammate to reach.

"He has the characteristics to become one of the best players in the world.

"After getting to the top so quickly, it is not easy to stay there for many years.

"There will be many ups and downs and you have to always maintain an equilibrium and not listen to the critics or the compliments."

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Tuesday, 02 October 2018
Juventus v Young Boys, Allianz Stadium 18:55
Hoffenheim v Manchester City, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 18:55
Bayern Munchen v Ajax, Allianz-Arena 21:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Shakhtar Donetsk, Groupama OL Academy Decines-Charpieu 21:00
Manchester United v Valencia, Old Trafford 21:00
AEK Athens v Benfica, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 21:00
Roma v Viktoria Plzen, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
CSKA Moskva v Real Madrid, VEB Arena 21:00
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PSG v Crvena Zvezda, Parc des Princes 18:55
Lokomotiv Moskva v Schalke 04, RZD Arena 18:55
Porto v Galatasaray, Estadio Do Dragao 21:00
Atletico Madrid v Club Brugge, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 21:00
PSV v Internazionale, Philips Stadion 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Monaco, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Napoli v Liverpool, Stadio San Paolo 21:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Barcelona, Wembley Stadium 21:00
Tuesday, 23 October 2018
AEK Athens v Bayern Munchen, Olympiako Stadio Spyros Louis 18:55
Young Boys v Valencia, STADE DE SUISSE Wankdorf Bern 18:55
Real Madrid v Viktoria Plzen, Estadio Santiago Bernabeu 21:00
Ajax v Benfica, Johan Cruijff ArenA 21:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester City, Oblasny SportKomplex Metalist 21:00
Manchester United v Juventus, Old Trafford 21:00
Roma v CSKA Moskva, Stadio Olimpico 21:00
Hoffenheim v Olympique Lyonnais, Wirsol Rhein-Neckar-Arena 21:00
Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Club Brugge v Monaco, Jan Breydelstadion 18:55
PSV v Tottenham Hotspur, Philips Stadion 18:55
Liverpool v Crvena Zvezda, Anfield 21:00
Barcelona v Internazionale, Camp Nou 21:00
PSG v Napoli, Parc des Princes 21:00
Lokomotiv Moskva v Porto, RZD Arena 21:00
Borussia Dortmund v Atletico Madrid, Signal-Iduna-Park 21:00
Galatasaray v Schalke 04, Turk Telekom Stadyumu 21:00
Tuesday, 06 November 2018
Monaco v Club Brugge, Stade Louis II 19:55
Crvena Zvezda v Liverpool, Stadion Rajko Mitic 19:55
Porto v Lokomotiv Moskva, Estadio Do Dragao 22:00
Atletico Madrid v Borussia Dortmund, Estadio Wanda Metropolitano 22:00
Internazionale v Barcelona, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza 22:00
Napoli v PSG, Stadio San Paolo 22:00
Schalke 04 v Galatasaray, Veltins-Arena 22:00
Tottenham Hotspur v PSV, Wembley Stadium 22:00
Wednesday, 07 November 2018
Valencia v Young Boys, Estadio de Mestalla 19:55
CSKA Moskva v Roma, VEB Arena 19:55
Juventus v Manchester United, Allianz Stadium 22:00
Bayern Munchen v AEK Athens, Allianz-Arena 22:00
Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid, Doosan Arena 22:00
Benfica v Ajax, Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz) 22:00
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk, Etihad Stadium 22:00
Olympique Lyonnais v Hoffenheim, Groupama Stadium 22:00
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