Why Juventus superstar Dybala has no interest in becoming Messi's heir

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The Juventus ace is often compared with his compatriot but he is only concerned with honouring the memory of his dad, who passed away when he was 15


Just like everyone else in Italy, Paulo Dybala was deeply affected by the plight of Edoardo Di Carlo and Samuel Di Michelangelo, two young boys left orphaned by the Rigopiano avalanche on January 18 that claimed the lives of 29 people.

After hearing that pair were Juventus fans, the Argentine made video calls to both and invited them to Vinovo in the hope of showing them that they were not alone.

Their stories were not the same but Dybala could relate to the sense of loss and loneliness.

'I am Dybala, not Lionel Messi'

When he was 15 years of age, he lost his father to pancreatic cancer. The youngest of three brothers, Paulo was kept out of the loop by the rest of the family.

"To protect me, they didn't tell me everything," he revealed. "I was hoping that he would recover. Today, I dream about him and I wake up in tears."

Paulo Dybala father PS

Given the profound impact that his father's death had on him, it seems amazing that Dybala managed to make it this far in the professional game.

After all, it was Adolfo who had been the driving force behind his son's fledgling career. When Paulo went for a trail at Newell's Old Boys at eight, his father was unconvinced by the club. "We're staying at home," he told his son. "Trust me."

Paulo instead joined Instituto de Cordoba and it was his father who used to drive him to and from every training session.

When Adolfo passed, Paulo was left with no other option but to leave his native Laguna Larga for Cordoba, which was an hour away by car, and live at the club's guesthouse, resulting in the nickname 'El pibe de la pensión'.

It was a miserable time in the still-grieving youngster's life. "It wasn't easy," the forward admitted. "My family was far away.

"I used to lock myself in the bathroom to cry. But I didn't give up."

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Indeed, Dybala says that the loss of father "strengthened" him and helped him grow.

It also made him more determined than ever to make it. "My father had a dream," he explained, "that at least one of his sons would become a footballer.

"Gustavo, the eldest, didn't manage it and neither did Mariano, who everyone said was better than me but who suffered from homesickness.

"So, I had to do it in order to honour the memory of my father and realise his dream."

He did just that. Less than two years later, at the age of 17, Dybala become Cordoba's youngest ever goalscorer, taking the record away from a certain Mario Kempes.

The following season, he netted 17 goals in 38 games, earning him both a new nickname, 'La Joya' (The Jewel), and an €11.8 million move to Palermo.

Paulo Dybala Juventus

It was in Sicily that he came under the wing of Maurizio Zamparini. Those familiar with the former Palermo president know that his views should be taken with a pinch of salt; that his words carry as much value as the contracts he awarded his coaches.

So, when Zamparini claimed Dybala was Lionel Messi's heir during his breakout campaign in 2014-15, few paid him any heed. However, that no longer looks like such a fanciful claim.

"When I sold him to Juventus for €32 million plus €8m in bonuses, they were talking about it like it was a scandalous figure," Zamparini reminisced earlier this year.

"Now they're saying [Juventus director general Beppe] Marotta is a genius. How much is Dybala worth now? At least €100m; he's the new Messi!"

Certainly, as the likes of Gonzalo Higuain have noted, there are similarities: the dribbling skills, the low centre of gravity, the terrific touch and velvet left foot.

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Perhaps more importantly, Dybala shares the same unwavering belief in his own ability.

It was striking that when he arrived at Juve in 2015, he didn't look in the least bit intimidated by his new surroundings.

He felt he belonged at one of the biggest clubs in the world, not just comfortable but completely at ease alongside some of the best players in the world.

Indeed, with Andrea Pirlo having departed that summer, he sought out the responsibility of taking free-kicks, while he even emulated Messi by getting dismissed on his Argentina debut.

However, being constantly compared to arguably the greatest player of all time is a rather large cross to carry.

Gerard Deulofeu recently admitted that he found the burden too heavy to carry after breaking into the Barcelona team in 2011.

"It was more harmful than beneficial," the Spain international told Forza Milan last month.

Paulo Dybala father PS

Dybala, though, seems as unperturbed by the comparisons as he was by the furore surrounding his transfer fee - and perhaps we should not be surprised.

He probably has the best chance of living up to the hype simply because he is not driven by the desire to be 'The new Messi'.

"I am Dybala and I want to be only Dybala, although I understand that there are comparisons," the 23-year-old told La Repubblica on the eve of Juventus' Champions League meeting with Barcelona. "There is only one Messi, as there was only one Maradona."

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Clearly, the only thing Dybla worries about his honouring the memory of his father.

"I dedicate my goals to him," he said. "Football has helped me a lot and I was a player more by his will than my own.

"He taught me to fight and never give up. His dream was to see me on the football field.

"I know that today my father is proud of me." And that is all Dybala has ever wanted.