Paulo Dybala confirms he was close to leaving Juventus in the summer and that his future is up to the club.
La Joya gave a lengthy interview to the Guardian where he discussed his youth career, Polish heritage and of course, who is better between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I’m the only player who shares a dressing room with both and people only see the tip of the iceberg, not the work beneath,” Dybala told the newspaper when speaking of Messi and Ronaldo.
“They haven’t won all they’ve won because they’ve been lucky,” he says. “And, yeah, I know people have to ask but they must know what I’m going to say.”
“Who’s better? I can’t answer that,” he says, laughing.
Attention turned to Dybala’s upbringing and Polish background, his grandfather having been born in the town of Boleslaw.
“I’d like to go, although there’s no family left, It’s a tiny place, eight or nine houses. Some Polish journalists put me in touch with my grandfather’s daughter but she passed away.
“There are cousins in Canada and we’ve spoken but not met. I want to. I tried to get a Polish passport but we couldn’t find some of my grandfather’s documents and we got Italian passports from my mother’s side instead.
“One day, I will. I feel maybe more Polish than Italian. Personality-wise, my dad was more Polish; my middle brother, exactly the same. All of us, a bit. Maybe a bit colder, Polish blood. Italians tend to be more emotional.”
Dybala’s life changed dramatically when at the age of 15, his father Adolfo passed away.
“I was young and it was very hard. My mother suffered a lot, my brothers too. You see the pain but you continue. I’m not the first to go through that and won’t be the last. Sadly, that’s the circle of life. Now we have someone helping us from above.
“I thought: ‘I’ll ditch [football],‘Ditch it’ in the sense of [not] leaving my family to play in Córdoba. I didn’t want to. I would have kept playing in my town but I wasn’t going to chase that dream any more.”
“What made me go back? My family. My refuge was my family. When Instituto called, I didn’t feel like going. I was 15, I couldn’t hide how hard it was: football was no refuge.
“I went back because it was my passion and my family pushed me. If not, my mindset was to leave it.
“Palermo? Actually, I was completely convinced. I was very happy. From the second division to Serie A was an enormous change but I was convinced.
“My family came and the adventure began in Palermo. The first year didn’t go well. It was all new and in truth it was a difficult dressing room; an older squad which was difficult when things went badly.
“We were struggling, results were bad. I was a kid, seeing a lot of things. Now I’m grateful because the experience became a lesson.
“Here, at Juventus, you ‘always win’, right? Everything’s nice. It was the opposite there but the second season was great. We won the second division and personally it was good.”
Dybala has been dubbed the new Sergio Agüero, Messi, Sívori, and Tevez – does it weigh on him?
“If you believe that, it weighs on you, but I always said I didn’t want to be the new anything, I want people to say my goals, my moves, are ‘like Dybala’, not anyone else. Messi, [Omar] Sívori, and Agüero won incredible things.
“I wanted to win my things, not theirs. There was criticism because it was €8m for a 17-year-old, their highest transfer ever. I left for €40m and when I got here, the first thing they asked was about the fee. You think about the prices paid now …”
… And you’re cheap. Dybala smiles: “I don’t want to imagine the pressure players have now. That helped in a way: I started to relax then, saw that I couldn’t focus on that.”
“It’s mad. Not long ago someone said: ‘You’re five off 200 Juventus games’, my fifth season and I thought: ‘But I only got here yesterday.’ If everything goes well I’ve got 10 years left but it went so fast.” Four leagues, three cups, a Champions League final: success normalised, almost unremarkable.
“Last summer? I was close to leaving,” he says. “That was in the club’s thinking, I knew. Until the last minute, we were waiting.
“I have two years left on my contract. That’s not a short time but it’s not a long one either. We’ll see what plans Juventus have, if they think I might leave in the next market or if they want me to stay. That’s a decision for the club to make. It’s hard to know because things change in a second.
“But I’m here, at a club that has treated me well; I’m happy, comfortable. [Maurizio] Sarri’s arrival has helped. He wanted me to stay, which gave me strength when we didn’t know what would happen. I knew he could teach me, help me bring out the best in myself.
“Without the ball, I get bored, If I go a long time without a touch, it’s like I’m lost, I lose track of the game. I’m fortunate to be in a team that wants possession, where everybody is technically good, with so many players high up the pitch, lots of opportunities to get on the ball.
“You’re not thinking: ‘I’ve got one, maybe two chances per game, I have to do something good.’ No. You lose the ball and get it back again. [Miralem] Pjanic gets more than 120 touches per game.
“When I started at Instituto in Córdoba, my coach had the same ideas, so I come with those mechanisms built-in. Latin Americans have that ‘fútbol de potrero’ idea, street football.”
Still? “It’s been lost a lot; it’s harder to find kids in the squares building goalposts with rocks. Football’s changed, technology took kids elsewhere.
“We’ve lost that picardía, that cunning, that improvisation. [In academies] everything is so structured, so perfect, that maybe – and I really hope not – we’re losing players like that.
“As you get older and football becomes more serious, professional, you understand that parts of your game are left behind. Sometimes you encounter coaches that give you freedom. For forwards that’s the best thing that can happen and I still try to play as I always did, with the ball.
“We should never forget that this is a game too and that when we were little, we played for fun. That’s how we started and who we are. We all have a kid inside of us and we should never leave him behind…”
[This article originally appeared in The Guardian]