Juventus forward Paulo Dybala discusses his early career, and says “it’s an honour” to play with Gianluigi Buffon.
La Joya gave a long interview to France Football, telling the story of his journey from Argentina to Turin.
“I never felt the pressure,” Dybala said of his early career.
“My father was demanding, but in line with my level of play. If I’m here now it’s thanks to him. He wanted me to get better every day, but he never said to me: ‘I won’t buy you this if you don’t keep playing football’.
“He would take me to Cordoba for the matches or training sessions. After his death [when Dybala was 15] it was difficult to take the bus and to go alone.
“I asked my club, Instituto, to let me have six months with my town’s team so I could be closer to my family. My brothers took over from him in terms of motivation.
“Losing your father is painful, but we’re not the first or the last this has happened to, life goes on, even if everything was easier before.”
Not long after his father died Dybala made his debut for Instituto, and earned the nickname ‘La Joya’ or ‘The Jewel’.
“It was a journalist in Cordoba who gave it to me after my first goal in my second match, to denote something which could be expensive. My friends and my family just call me Paulo though.”
After just one season the Argentine second division, the youngster moved to Italy with Palermo, rather than moving to a bigger club in his homeland.
“I’m conscious of how different my particular path was,” Dybala admitted.
“If you evolve in a big Argentinian club you understand the mental pressure and it prepares you for Europe. Instituto were a big team, but in the second division.
“I could have stayed in my country and gone to a decorated club, but when Palermo came in I said to myself: ‘why not?’.
“I also thought of the path of [Edinson] Cavani and [Javier] Pastore. I said to my family that I wanted to go to progress.
“I knew Italian football, but I didn’t think I’d play all of the matches.
“Do I regret not joining a big Argentinian team? Not really, because in my year in the second division we had Quilmes, Rosario and David Trezeguet’s River Plate.
“I always dreamed of a big Argentinian club, but once I got to Palermo I forgot about all of that. And if I’d stayed longer it could have complicated things.”
The first two seasons in Sicily were difficult, but Dybala believes they aided his development hugely.
“Exactly, above all the second in Serie B because it’s a more physical league. It was an incredible season too, we were promoted with five games to spare, the team behind us were 14 points back.
“I discovered another facet of calcio, and it helped me for the next season before I signed for Juve.
“I had offers to return to Argentina [after Palermo’s relegation] but I rejected them. If you go back to your country it’s difficult to dream of Europe, because you give the sensation that you failed the first time.
“I preferred to stay and fight, and I did well.
“I didn't expect to come, bang in 50 goals and leave. I was 18 and coming from the Argentinian second division, I wanted to learn in one of the best leagues in Europe, I knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
Dybala was then asked if things changed when he made his move to Juventus in 2015.
“Hugely. You play three competitions, the matches are harder, you go all-out in training every day. You need to be ready to win everything and you need to pay attention to the details. That’s what the great champions do.”
One such champion is Gianluigi Buffon, and the forward was asked how it is to play with the 39-year-old goalkeeper.
“It’s a great honour to have him as my teammate,” Dybala said.
“It’s difficult to find the words. The simple fact of journeying with him, you tell yourself: ‘there’s Gigi, a legend alongside you’.
“People admire him, he’s respected by everyone, everywhere. He’s almost 40 but he trains like he’s 20. He’s an example of desire and love for football.”