MILAN – While Cristiano Ronaldo spent part of the international break on holiday in St Tropez, his Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala found himself in all-too familiar surroundings on the substitutes’ bench.
Ronaldo has failed to find the net during his first three games for Juventus following his move from Real Madrid and will continue his quest when the Serie A leaders, early leaders with nine points, host surprise early challengers Sassuolo on Sunday.
But if the five-times World Player of the Year is feeling frustrated by his mini-drought — and his reactions on the pitch suggest he is — his worries pale in comparison to Dybala’s unhappy start to the season.
The 24-year-old Argentine, known as the Jewel for his pace, technique and scoring prowess, has played a pivotal role for Juventus since joining them three years ago.
But, having started Juve’s opening game of the season, a 3-2 win at Chievo, Dybala was then left out of the starting line-up for the following two games against Lazio and Parma.
He then joined Argentina on a quick tour of the United States, where he was expected to get at least one start, but had to be content with a second-half substitute’s appearance in the second match against Colombia.
Dybala’s admirers have hit out at his treatment with his brother Gustavo angrily criticising Argentina’s new coach Lionel Scaloni.
Meanwhile, Maurizio Zamparini, the president of Dybala’s previous club Palermo, suggested that the player would leave Serie A in the next transfer window.
“Every time he is left out of the team, it makes me want to cry,” said Zamparini, who is proud of the role the Sicilian club played in developing Dybala after he arrived from Argentina.
Zamparini said it was “all down to” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and added: “I sent a message to Dybala two years ago, advising him to go to Spain, where they play football, and not stay in Italy.”
Dybala’s dip in form seemed to begin in April when a poor display in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid culminated in a red card for two bookable offences.
He also found himself sidelined during the World Cup when his only appearance was as a second-half substitute in the infamous 3-0 defeat by Croatia.
While Dybala was warming the Argentina bench, Ronaldo, having been asked to be rested from Portugal’s two matches, was enjoying a break in St Tropez — posting photographs on Instagram — after Allegri gave his players some time off.
He also launched his latest line of branded underwear.
Dybala avoided any complaints about his situation, telling Gazzetta dello Sport: “I admit I did not start as well as last year or even in 2016. I want to get to Turin to work hard and recover my place in Juventus”
“I told myself that after being lucky enough to play with Lionel Messi in the national team, now I have the chance to be with Ronaldo in Juventus,” he added. “It’s amazing.”