Sunday 18 December 2016, 07:14

Dybala: Playing with Messi was an unforgettable emotion

Paulo Dybala may have been sent off representing Argentina against Uruguay in September, but the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifier is one he remembers very fondly due to another reason: he realised a long-held dream of playing with Lionel Messi.

Dybala started alongside Messi, Angel Di Maria and Lucas Pratto in an adventurous attack. The Juventus forward began brightly, producing some gorgeous touches, playing give-and-gos with Messi and hitting the post from distance. In the 42nd minute, Messi played a one-two with Dybala and, despite being encompassed by bodies, managed to fire the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards to break the deadlock.

On the cusp of half-time, however, Dybala was dismissed for a second bookable offence. Messi, Emmanuel Mas and Di Maria all tried to console Dybala as he walked off the field in tears. Argentina ultimately held on for a much-needed 1-0 victory, and the 23-year-old still remembers the occasion warmly.

“Messi was my idol and I dreamt of playing with him,” Dybala told Corriere dello Sport. “The first time I did was an unforgettable emotion. The best moment was when I linked up with him and gave an assist for him to fire home.

“I was hoping to reach the national team since I was a kid. Being part of the Albiceleste is a unique sensational.

Argentina are fifth – the inter-continental playoff position – in South American qualifying for Russia 2018, one point behind Ecuador and Chile and one above Colombia. Dybala doesn’t envisage a World Cup without La Albiceleste for the first time since 1970.

“Nobody can imagine a World Cup without Argentina or the best player in the world,” stated La Joya (The Jewel).

Pipita support Dybala also defended his Juventus team-mate Gonzalo Higuain, who received blame for some of Argentina’s disappointing results.

“He likes two things: winning games and scoring goals,” said the man who, aged 17, broke Mario Kempes’s record to become Instituto’s youngest-ever scorer. “Receiving criticism is the fate of the best – it happened to Messi. But we can’t ask too much, Higuain always scores important goals and gives his all to help the team.”