Gianluigi Buffon knows a thing or two about football and when he talks about Paulo Dybala, he does not have many doubts. “He is good enough to be in the top five players in the world and wouldn’t be out of place in the top three,” Juventus’s 39-year-old goalkeeper said of his team-mate, who shone brightest in Tuesday’s 3-0 win against Barcelona.
The 23-year-old struck twice with his lethal left foot inside the first 22 minutes of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg in Turin. “He has come on enormously over the last two years,” Buffon continued. “But now he needs to prove his class on a regular basis – he needs to show that he deserves the expectations we have for him.”
Having watched Barcelona recover from a 4-0 defeat at Paris in the previous round, Dybala is not thinking of the semi-finals yet. “It is certainly one of the best nights of my career and we cannot afford to destroy it next Wednesday,” he said. “We know we need a positive result in the second leg. It will be tough out there – we all saw [what happened to Paris]. But we are a great team and can work together to qualify.
“We were perfect,” he added of his side’s performance on the night. “We had a great game and made the most of the chances we got. My second was probably more difficult than the first one but I hit the ball well and it went in. When I was a kid, I dreamed of moments like this. Results like this give you the motivation you need to try even harder.”
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri did not go into raptures about Dybala, noting that to do so would be “disrespectful to his team-mates, who all had a fantastic game”. He had a point. It was hard to spot a Juventus player who did not cover himself in glory, defender Giorgio Chiellini notably heading his side’s third and making a series of timely tackles in defence.
“We got a great result against one of the best sides in the world and certainly the best attack,” said Chiellini, who missed Juventus’s 2015 final loss to Barcelona in Berlin through injury – and recently picked up a masters degree in business administration. “We know that we are up against comeback specialists, but we neutralised most of their moves tonight.”
The spectre of that Paris comeback means no Juve player is thinking too far ahead, but their situation is undoubtedly a positive one. “We are experienced enough to know it’s not over yet,” Chiellini explained. “But if you asked us what we wanted three hours ago, it would have been hard to ask for much more.”