TURIN, Italy Paulo Dybala said his two-goal performance against Barcelona on Tuesday was the sort of night he had dreamed about since he used to play on the bumpy pitches of the Argentine second division as a slightly-built teenager.
The 23-year-old is arguably the most exciting player to have come out of Argentina since Lionel Messi and managed to upstage the five-times world player of the year as he led Juventus to an emphatic 3-0 win in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
“I am very happy because as a child I wanted to live these moments and today I have succeeded in that," he said. "We are all in a very positive moment with a lot of confidence and that’s important to go forward and achieve our objectives.”
Although his diminutive stature, speed and trickery have sometimes led to comparisons with Messi, Dybala has made a slower start to his career.
He began playing professionally as a 17-year-old at Cordoba club Insituto in the Argentine second tier, the same age at which Messi was already with Barcelona.
He then moved to Palermo, which is often seen as a stepping-stone club for South Americans moving to Europe, and joined Juventus at the start of last season.
One uncanny coincidence is that both players were sent off on their Argentine debuts -- Messi in a friendly against Hungary in 2005 and Dybala in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay last September.
The player known as the Jewel has tried to play down comparisons between the two, however.
"People need to understand that I am Paulo Dybala and that's who I want to continue to be," he said in an interview before the match.
"I understand the comparisons and expectations on me but I do not want to be the new Messi or the Messi of the future."
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Clare Fallon)