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The most wanted player in the world?

Paulo Dybala’s transfer value will have rocketed higher than ever after his sumptuous winning goal saw Juventus past a dogged Spurs team in the Champions League. The tie was delicately balanced in the second half, but Dybala raced in on goal and was coolness personified as he dispatched a great finish over the flailing arm of Hugo Lloris. The 24-year-old has been on a remarkable upward curve in the last two years and has developed into the most exciting forward in Serie A. That has alerted Europe’s best clubs, and Dybala could well be at the centre of a huge tug of war when the transfer window opens this summer.

The world’s best players, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have enjoyed an iron-fisted duopoly on the World Player of the Year title for the last decade, are now both well into their 30s. The mantle of the world’s best will need to go to someone else in the next couple of years, and Dybala is well-placed to take it on. Neymar is the leading contender, but he has underwhelmed at PSG this year. Of course there is Tottenham’s Harry Kane, but Dybala outshone him on Wednesday night. Kane is a lethal finisher, a Robert Lewandowski or Alan Shearer in the making, but Dybala offers more all-round, and he is the closest to a young Messi out of all those currently plying their trade.

Every January, the CIES Football Observatory publishes a list of the most valuable players in the world. This year, Dybala was fifth, with a value of €174.6 million. That left him behind only Neymar, Messi, Kane and Kylian Mbappe, but there is every reason to think that Dybala could soon usurp Neymar and stand top of the chart.

He marked his return from a two-month injury layoff by grabbing a last-ditch winner to fire Juventus to a 1-0 win over Lazio at the weekend. He then followed it up with the superbly taken winning goal to dump Tottenham out of the Champions League, displaying the sort of ruthless streak that deserted Kane and co.

Heading into the World Cup, Argentina have the most terrifying range of attacking options in the world: Messi, Gonzalo Higuain of Juventus, Man City legend Sergio Aguero and Inter’s goal machine Mauro Icardi are all in the mix. But despite the wealth of options available to Jorge Sampaoli, it seems impossible to leave Dybala out. Argentina are among the favourites to win the World Cup, check out a bookmaker like YouWager and you will see they are not far behind the likes of Germany and Brazil and if Dybala lights up the tournament his value will go through the roof.

He missed the first leg of the tie against Tottenham, during which Juventus were largely second best, and he made all the difference in the second leg. “At his best, he is unplayable,” said his manager, Massimiliano Allegri. “Once Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have retired, I have no doubt it will be Neymar and Dybala who are the best in the world.”

It is hard to argue with that sentiment, as Dybala is a genius on the ball. He enjoys a low centre of gravity, a great turn of pace and magnificent vision. He is a wonderfully gifted playmaker, as well as a great goal scorer. Juventus will therefore find it difficult to keep hold of him. They are a great club, and he is likely to win plenty more Serie A titles there, but to be a true superstar like Messi and Ronaldo you arguably have to win the Champions League. Juventus have twice made the final in the last three years, but twice been thrashed, first by Barcelona and then by Real Madrid. Dybala may decide his best chance of greatness lies with one of the Spanish giants, or with a Premiership heavyweight like Man City or Man Utd, all of whom can offer him astronomical wages. The nature of the modern game demands instant success, so you can expect Europe’s top clubs to come calling for Dybala this summer as they bid to outmanoeuvre one another, and it could develop into a fascinating story.

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