BARCELONA, April 18: Diminutive, dynamic and armed with a deadly left foot, Paulo Dybala could be a prototype of a Lionel Messi clone.
The similarities between the two Argentines, who face off in Wednesday�s Champions League quarterfinal second leg between Juventus and Barcelona, have been noted by Dybala�s strike partner Gonzalo Higuain among others.
The fact that Argentina now looks for the next Messi rather than the next Diego Maradona is as good a testament to the five-time world player of the year�s achievements as any.
Hundreds of talented number 10s were christened as Maradona�s heir before Messi turned even the �Hand of God� into distant memory.
�Messi is the best, he shows it every day,� said Higuain, who joined Juventus in a fractious transfer from Napoli for 90 million euros ($96 million) at the start of the season and has played alongside Messi for most of his 68 Argentina caps.
�Paulo is still young. He is 23 and has the world at his feet,� he told Premium Sport.
The younger man won the battle in the first leg last week with a quickfire first-half double as Juventus claimed a commanding 3-0 lead.
However to win the war, the Italian champions must resist for 90 minutes at the Camp Nou to prevent another famous Barcelona comeback.
The Catalans overcame a record 4-0 first-leg deficit by beating Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in the second leg at home in the last 16.
�It�s one of my greatest nights in football,� said Dybala after the first leg. �Let�s not ruin it now.�
Last week in Turin was only the second time Dybala and Messi have graced the same pitch.
The first time was a far unhappier experience for Dybala as he was sent off on his first start for Argentina.
A tearful Dybala was consoled and bailed out by his captain that night as Messi scored the only goal in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay last September.
�Messi told me to be calm, that these things happen and that it was the referee�s fault,� Dybala said afterwards.
Yet, even a red card brought comparisons to Messi as he too was sent off for the only time in his career just minutes into his Argentina debut. � AFP