The renaissance in Rome is firmly underway with Daniele De Rossi at the helm, but a lot of that is thanks to the unwavering brilliance of Paulo Dybala.
Daniele de Rossi, Capitano Futuro himself, has been at the reins of the Roma chariot since the hierarchy gave Jose the big Commodus thumbs-down in mid-January.
Since then, the shackles have been lifted, and the Giallorossi have won three games on the bounce. Granted, those three games have been against teams in the bottom four of Serie A, but technicalities are for nerds.
Dybala scored twice as Roma brushed aside Cagliari — one smashed in from ten yards, and one permafrost cool penalty — as well as taking the corner that led to the first goal, following some six-yard box chaos.
That first goal caused de Rossi to do that thing with his hand that you learn as a teenager, where you put the tips of your thumb and middle finger together, and slap your index finger against them to make a sort of clicky noise of pure delight. The sort of reaction you’d expect for a Puskas Award contender, as opposed to a scrappy tap-in, but then Daniele de Rossi is a purist.
He’s a rare beast, Paulo Dybala. One of the modern game’s only genuine number 10s, the Argentine is a real throwback to Serie A’s creative geniuses of the past—Baggio, Zola, Del Piero, and, most fittingly, Francesco Totti.
And with performances like the ones he’s been churning out in that gorgeous Roma red this season, he could find himself on a similar path to immortality in the city if he sticks around for a while longer.
His most recent showing against Cagliari was yet another reminder of exactly why we call him ‘La Joya’, however.
Paulo Dybala Vs Cagliari pic.twitter.com/niP0on8CDP
— Le M. (@Kulusexy) February 5, 2024
A breath of fresh air, the gorgeous and endlessly creative is an utter joy to watch. Him and his sexy low socks.
He is deeply Italian, actually, is Paulo. Yes, he’s Argentinian; yes, he plays for Argentina; yes, he says he feels Argentine—blah blah blah—But you can’t tell us he’s not Italian.
Roma’s number 21 could actually have played for Poland or Italy due to his Polish grandfather and Italian great-grandmother, and the fact he actually has Italian citizenship (obtained to hurry along a move to Palermo), and the man simply oozes Serie A.
Any self-respecting Italian team needs:
1. A world-class goalkeeper.
2. A defence that stirs fear in your bone marrow but could also be the subject of a YouTube compilation of majestic slide tackles set to Lakmé’s Flower Duet.
3. A tenacious midfield full of shouty, fighty people.
4. A striker with a cannon for a foot.
5. A free-thinking creative genius in the number 10 role.
Dybala is that number 10. He’s got the close control, the accurate shooting, the pinpoint passing, the vision, and the intelligence. Traits that make him unstoppable when he’s got a smile on his face, and Paulo is smiling again.
There’s no doubt La Joya (The Jewel) would have been a hero for his national team, but, sometimes, when you play in similar positions to Lionel Messi, you just have to accept that you might not get that chance. Still, 38 caps (and counting) is not to be sniffed at.
At his hometown club, Instituto de Córdoba, they called him El Pibe de la Pensión. The Pension Kid. Depending on what sort of clauses they had inserted into that contract to sell him to Palermo, they might just have been right.
We never want this ride to end. Dybala in Rome has been the perfect storm – and it’s only just getting started.
By Andrew Martin