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Paulo Dybala is already a superstar

The Argentine striker has gone from promising prospect to impact star in a hurry at Juventus.

Juventus FC v Cagliari Calcio - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Two summers ago, a relatively unheralded player was signed by Juventus for a lot of money. Then-21-year-old Paulo Dybala was signed from Palermo for some €32 million ($35.13 million U.S.), a fee many felt was unreasonably high considering he had little experience playing senior football. Since then, though, Dybala has consistently proven his doubters wrong — and now on the cusp of his 23rd birthday, he’s starting to emerge as one of the great stars of the game.

Dybala had shown plenty of promise as a young player for Palermo before joining Juventus, but many were uncertain as to what that promise would become. We’ve all seen plenty of flashy young players at small clubs turn into nothing more than disappointment after moving to a bigger team, and that was a common fear when people talked about Dybala’s transfer to Juventus.

Dybala quickly put those concerns to rest, though, scoring in four of his first five league starts for the bianconeri, and registering an assist in the match he didn’t score in. He would end his first season in Turin with 19 goals and his name was frequently on the lips of people talking about the best young players in Europe. His start to this season was a bit slower as Juventus adjusted to massive turnover at the top of their squad.

Key midfielder Paul Pogba had gone and striker Gonzalo Higuain joined the fold after breaking the Serie A single-season goals record for Napoli the season before. Manager Max Allegri had to play with his tactics a lot to get things working smoothly for his team, especially thanks to a string of injuries, and Dybala seemed to suffer some for it in their first few games. Now that things have settled in, though, Juventus are looking nigh-unstoppable again — and Dybala has been a huge part of that.

The young Argentine has been making huge strides in maturity and consistency, seen stepping up big time in a number of matches to help keep pushing his flagging side forward. He did so at the expense of his own attacking output, but his sheer quality helped Juventus win games they were struggling in. It was a bastion of stability at a time when they badly needed it.

Lately, though, Dybala hasn’t just been been excelling as a team-supporting, attack-leading player — he’s finally been scoring goals, as well. Four in his last three all-competitions matches, to be exact, including both Juventus goals in a 2-1 win over Udinese this weekend in a match when much of their attack was lackluster.

Every part of his game has been on display at a high level in the early part of this season. At a time when so much was uncertain and in flux for Juventus, Dybala has emerged as a leader in the team in terms of his sheer quality and consistency so far — even if he’s not as vocal or experienced as others around him.

The kinds of performances Dybala has been putting in are exactly what Juventus needed, but they’re also the hallmark of an emerging superstar. Dybala is at the point when he’s no longer a huge bundle of potential on two legs: he’s a consistently excellent player who, at his young age, has the ability to become even better. In a team filled with excellent defenders and paired in attack with Higuain, Dybala has been Juventus’ best player this season, and one of the best players in all of Europe.

While Dybala isn’t on the same level as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich's top forwards, he’s also not that far behind. It’s not inconceivable that he’s in the same conversation as some of those players by the end of the season — right now he certainly belongs in the group of players behind them as the biggest stars in the game.

While nothing is guaranteed in any sport in terms of player development, it certainly looks like Dybala is on a path to become one of the superstars of the modern era of the game, and it looks as though he’ll reach that destination sooner rather than later.