With goals, Dybala celebrates Covid-19 recovery
In all the games - against Bologna, Lecce, Genoa and Torino on Saturday - Dybala has scored.Updated: Jul 06, 2020 06:47 IST
Standing bare feet on the grass, arms wide, Paulo Dybala is looking skywards in the Instagram post. “My face says it all, I’m finally cured from Covid-19,” is his message. The post came nearly 45 days after the Juventus forward had tested positive on March 22.
In an early April video, Dybala had spoken of “being tired very quickly” at training and being “short of breath after five minutes”. After testing positive, Dybala said he developed more symptoms; a “cough”, “a tired body.” “When I slept, I felt very cold,” he said. By late April, media reports said Dybala had tested positive four times.
Proof of how well the 26-year-old Argentine has recovered came in 12 days and four games since Serie A leaders Juventus resumed their league campaign on June 22. In all the games - against Bologna, Lecce, Genoa and Torino on Saturday - Dybala has scored.
From right-back Juan Cuadrado’s assist, he got going early in the Turin derby, netting in the third minute with a neat piece of individual skill. Juventus won 4-1 with goals from Cuadrado, Cristiano Ronaldo and an own goal from Kofi Djidji, moving seven points clear at the top. Ronaldo became the first player since Omar Sivori in 1961 to score 25 goals in the league for Juve with his first goal from a free-kick since moving to Italy last season.
The novel coronavirus - teammates Blaise Matuidi and Daniele Rugani too tested positive but were asymptomatic and declared cured by April 16 - wasn’t the first curveball in Dybala’s life. Dybala lost his father, who would drive nearly 115km every day to take him to training, when he was 15. Moving from Argentina to Italy, Dybala’s Palermo were relegated in his first season. When he plays for Argentina, he lives in the long shadow of another left-foot master - Lionel Messi. It is difficult to play alongside geniuses, Dybala had said after Argentina’s implosion in the 2018 World Cup. And at Juventus, over the past two seasons, he has been sharing the locker room with Ronaldo.
“A lot of the time, you have difficult moments and you have to go out there and fight anyway: not just in football, in life,” Dybala, nicknamed ‘La Joya (The Jewel)’ told The Guardian in January. With 11 goals and 10 assists in a league campaign that could give Juventus their ninth successive title, Dybala has walked the talk. With more starts and assists than Ronaldo.
Former teammate Paul Pogba has compared Dybala’s ability to turn and shoot inside the penalty area to a PlayStation move; Diego Forlan said he is so sharp he makes a difference and Aaron Ramsey has called him an unbelievable player. “He is very gifted - a team player - and some of the things he has done in training and some of the games this season has been quite breathtaking,” Ramsey told sports website The Athletic.
With Ramsey in midfield and Cuadrado, Dybala has forged a good understanding in Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus who play a high line and focus on possession. Against Inter before football stopped in Italy, Dybala scored a goal that showcased his class and technique. With the outside of his right foot he controlled a long ball from Rodrigo Bentancur, beat left-back Ashley Young, found Ramsey, moved in to receive the return pass, beat Young again and scored with the outside of his left foot.
Trailing 0-1 away to Atalanta last November, Dybala and Cuadrado helped Gonzalo Higuain score a brace before Dybala buried a left-footer into the bottom corner. He has also got three goals and two assists in the Champions League where Juventus have to overturn a 0-1 away loss to Lyon in the round of 16.
With offers linking him to Liverpool, Manchester United, PSG and Tottenham Hotspur, Dybala wasn’t even supposed to be in a black-and-white strip that has been his since 2015 when he cost Juventus 32 million pounds. A return of five goals and two assists in 30 games in 2018-19 hadn’t helped his cause.
New coach Sarri convinced him to stay. “I never had any doubts about Dybala,” the Italian said on Saturday. By often using a midfield diamond in the 4-4-2 formation, Sarri could accommodate Ronaldo and Dybala, who prefers playing second striker. On Saturday though, Juventus started in 4-3-3 with Dybala starting as centre-forward.
“They (Dybala and Ronaldo) have learned to look for each other more often. They have realised that by benefitting from each other, both reap the rewards. It’s something I have noticed in training too,” said Sarri after the win against Genoa.