Comparisons between Paulo Dybala and Lionel Messi are laughable in the eyes of Antonio Cassano, with the Juventus forward “not a champion”.
A bright start to the season for a star turn in Turin saw him placed in a bracket alongside a fellow Argentine at Barcelona .
Dybala has, however, dipped since then, while Messi has remained a mercurial presence at Camp Nou and a model of consistency.
Cassano believes it is those qualities were separate two countrymen, with it wrong to suggest that a 24-year-old yet to fulfil his true potential is on the same level as a five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“Paulo Dybala is a fine player, but not a champion,” the former Italy international told Corriere dello Sport .
“Last season he was in great form and compared to Leo Messi, but I had to laugh. Let’s not even joke about such things, please. Leo is on another level.”
According to Cassano, who has turned out in Serie A for the likes of Milan and Sampdoria in the past, only Dybala’s Juve team-mates Gianluigi Buffon, Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic can be considered “champions” in the Italian top-flight.
There was a time when Cassano himself could have been considered to occupy such a bracket, with his efforts at Roma earning a move to Real Madrid in 2006.
He has, however, struggled to maintain his own standards down the years and is currently without a club following an unfortunate episode with Hellas Verona at the start of the season .
Cassano is now a 35-year-old free agent, but he remains eager to play on and maintains that he has never announced his retirement.
“Fundamentally, I am still a player, because I train every day, but I don’t have any satisfying offers,” added a man with 39 international caps to his name.
“Everyone seems to think I retired and that I can’t hack it anymore, but that’s not true. I work harder than ever and if the right opportunity came along, I’d be happy and ready.
“I’m keeping my weight down, I don’t have a belly and I weigh 85kg, the same as when I went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”