Wednesday December 3 2014
Palermo’s present, Italy’s future?

As Argentine duo Franco Vazquez and Paulo Dybala continue to drive Palermo’s form, Luca Persico charts their rise to prominence in Sicily.

For Cordoba natives Franco Vazquez and Paulo Dybala, it has so far been a season of justification. After arriving to much hype eight months apart in 2012, they are now finally showing their worth.

Between them this season, the duo have either scored or assisted 13 of Palermo’s 15 goals and started every match. Without the contributions of Vazquez and Dybala, the Rosanero’s season would unquestionably have a very different outlook. Yet, even as little as 12 months ago, not many would have backed them to be so decisive.

After 21 rounds of last season’s successful push for promotion from Serie B, Vazquez had not featured and only made the bench once. Dybala, in contrast, had been involved, but failed to net in 14 appearances. For a player who Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini now claims is ‘part Messi, part Montella, all world class’ and worth ‘more than €40m’, it was a tough period.

Dybala had been signed from Instituto ACC for a reported fee of €11.9m in July 2012. He was dubbed the ‘new Sergio Aguero’ and the biggest signing bought with the proceeds of the sales of Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore and Simon Kjaer.

After going through the likes of Mauricio Pinilla, Igor Budan and Massimo Maccarone to try and find a replacement for Cavani and a partner for Fabrizio Miccoli, Zamparini now had the new star he craved, but it didn't work out.

In his first season, Dybala managed just three goals in 27 appearances, as Palermo were relegated. The teenager had shown flashes, but ultimately underwhelmed.

“I know at the start they expected more from me, but it was complicated adapting to your football,” he conceded recently.

To expect him to save a catastrophic campaign that had seen Zamparini make four managerial changes was perhaps unfair, but his failure to subsequently make an impact in Serie B was concerning.

For Vazquez, Palermo had also not been a natural fit. The then 22 year-old was signed in January 2012 from Belgrano, yet after making just four starts, he was loaned Rayo Vallecano for the 2012-13 season. His impact in Spain was limited and after returning to Palermo, head Coach Beppe Iachini  initially demoted him to playing with the primavera.

A specialist in securing promotions, Iachini has, however, always been resourceful and his decision to reintegrate Vazquez for the round 22 draw at Modena was a masterstroke. The playmaker would grow into the side and end the campaign with four goals and five assists, as Palermo finished first.

His influence also extended to Dybala, who finally scored against Bari in round 27 and went on to net four more.

Iachini had found a combination that worked and after the departure of top scorers Abel Hernandez and Kyle Lafferty, he tweaked his preferred 3-5-2 to a 3-5-1-1 to put the duo at the forefront of his side for Palermo’s assault on Serie A. That decision was rewarded immediately, with Vazquez scoring in three of his first four appearances, while Dybala has six so far and is now the focal point of the team.

“His quality is beyond doubt,” states Iachini. “We just moved him closer to the goal to get the best out of his characteristics.”

Dybala and Vazquez’s form has led Italy Coach Antonio Conte to suggest they could be naturalised to feature for the Azzurri, while Zamparini is desperate to extend their contracts beyond their current 2016 cut-off.

The duo may have taken their time, but they have finally arrived in Sicily.

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Have your say...
No Dybala should not even been considered.He is not of Italian blood therefore absolutely not.Vazquez is different as his mother is Italian therefore OK if he is better than our own youngsters.I feel sorry for Dybala future as he may be called up but he will not be a regular for Argentina.
on the 8th December, 2014 at 2:17pm
Both Dybala and Vazquez are brilliant players with potential skills! Perhaps Vazquez will play for Italy in future! But it's different with Dybala. He looks like to choose Argentina because of his dream to play with Lionel Messi. I hope these 2 players will have many appearances with their national team in the future!
on the 6th December, 2014 at 10:44pm
this guy is so overrated its not even funny. he scores a handful of goals and suddenly hes worth 50m?? he has nothing compared to rising stars like el shaarawy, insigne, etc. let him play for argentina because he is nothing special. dont forget immobile was the top scorer last season and look at his form now.
on the 5th December, 2014 at 8:05pm
No thanks. Argentina can keep them.
on the 4th December, 2014 at 12:21am
oh what a blunder i forgot g rossi was from new jersey
on the 3rd December, 2014 at 9:29pm
To echo Buffon's thoughts, it is also a sad state of affairs if the Italian national team must look to distantly related Argentines to make up a decent squad. Okay, on the one hand Gabriel Paletta had a bright start, but surely there are youngsters in the Under-18 and 21s that could make the step up? Thiago Motta, Christian Ledesma and Osvaldo underwhelmed - so is more 'oriundi' the answer?
on the 3rd December, 2014 at 5:30pm
So as soon as a kid has a good streak and score few goals hes worth $50m?
on the 3rd December, 2014 at 5:02pm
Dybala always looked sharp, just lacking the scoring touch. I'm happy he's coming into form and pray he continues to mature and grow in Sicily. Every team needs a reliable and consistent player. Forza Palermo!
on the 3rd December, 2014 at 3:16pm

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