2014-15 SERIE A REVIEW

Serie A Young Player of the Season 2014-15

Paulo Dybala, Palermo

An eye-catching campaign which earned him a big-money move sees Gaby McKay name Paulo Dybala as the best of a very bright bunch.

For a League which is perhaps more often associated with veteran superstars, there is a remarkably deep pool of young talent in Serie A.

While the likes of Luca Toni, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo are rightly lauded for their longevity, the next generation are showing there’s more to this League than Noughties nostalgia.

Felipe Anderson almost single-handedly inspired Lazio’s Champions League push in the second half of the campaign, while Genoa’s Mattia Perin, Empoli’s Daniele Rugani and Domenico Berardi of Sassuolo offer hope for the future of the Azzurri.

However, despite the considerable talents of these players and others, 2014-15 will be remembered as a breakout year for one man in particular - Palermo striker Paulo Dybala.

Having joined the club from Instituto in his native Argentina in 2012, the youngster failed to impress during his debut Serie A season, scoring just three times as the Rosanero were relegated. Having secured promotion at the first time of asking, the Sicilian side were expecting a lot more this time around from the prospect they had parted with €12m to secure.

Dybala did not disappoint, notching 13 goals, as well as managing a League-leading 10 assists, testament to his all-round excellence.

Inevitably, those exploits did not go unnoticed, with Juventus beating off competition from Arsenal and Inter to secure the 21-year-old’s signature. Between cash, bonuses and players in exchange, the Bianconeri are thought to be parting with around €40m, the highest fee they have paid for any player since Gianluigi Buffon arrived from Parma in 2001.

The Turin side’s shrewd director general Giuseppe Marotta would not shell out such a sum for any ordinary player.

“Dybala is the new [Lionel] Messi,” declared Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini in April. “He’s not an out-and-out striker, but operates in every area of the field, like Messi.” While such proclamations from the Rosanero patron are - to say the least - premature, there is clearly huge potential in the forward.

With his move to the Old Lady, Dybala will be following in the footsteps of some truly great players, and this season he’s shown he has all the raw materials. Witness his determination in holding off Cristian Zapata before slotting home against Milan in November, reminiscent of Carlos Tevez. An astounding - if ultimately thwarted - solo dribble at home to Lazio in November had shades of Roberto Baggio, while his strike against Cesena in Week 7 was the perfect Gol alla Del Piero.

It goes without saying that the youngster has a long way to go before he can be ranked alongside such great names, but where better to hone his skills than Turin? Compatriot Tevez knows all there is to know about workrate and desire, while Alvaro Morata can show his new teammate how best to exploit his frightening pace.

A partnership with Franco Vazquez is one thing, but service from Pirlo is on another level entirely, while if the pressure gets too much - or the youngster needs taking down a peg - who better than captain Buffon to guide the new kid on the block?

“When I arrived at Palermo, everyone said I was too expensive,” Dybala recalls. “It will be the same thing at Juve, people will say the club paid too much, but with a calm mind I will try to repay the Bianconeri.”

With the money Juventus are investing, the 21-year-old has a lot of repaying to do, but Dybala’s performances this season have shown that he is worth his weight in gold.

Honourable mentions

Daniele Rugani

The Empoli defender played every minute of his side’s campaign, without receiving a single booking. Tall, strong and comfortable on the ball, the 20-year-old has already been involved in Antonio Conte’s Italy setup and will return to Juventus this summer.

Felipe Anderson

After initially struggling to hold down a place in the Lazio side, the Brazilian exploded from December onward. Since replacing Antonio Candreva for the Week 14 win over Parma, the former Santos man has provided 10 goals and seven assists in 21 subsequent Serie A games.

Mauro Icardi

While his demeanour and stalling over a new contract may grate, there is no knocking the Inter striker’s contribution. Without his 22 goals, the Nerazzurri would be even worse off.

Jose Mauri

A rare bright spot in a nightmare campaign for Parma, the 19-year-old’s assured displays in central midfield look to have earned him a move to Milan for next season.

Paul Pogba

Having established himself as one of the finest midfielders on the continent, it’s easy to forget Pogba is still just 22. Last season’s Young Player of the Season continued his progression this term, scoring eight goals as Juventus swept all before them.