One of the emerging big names of Italian football is sure to be changing cities this summer, after Paulo Dybala rejected a contract extension to stay at Palermo. With just one more year on his deal, that means that Palermo will have to sell him this summer so as to avoid losing him for free.
While some of the biggest clubs around are all sniffing around Dybala -- and why not, the Argentina is amazingly talented -- Palermo's president has a preference in his striker's destination if he can wrangle it: Napoli.
"It's true [that Napoli are in for Dybala]" Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini said in a recent interview. "Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke to me personally. [...] It's clear that the relationship I have with Aurelio is special, and I hope he can take Dybala."
Napoli getting their hands on Dybala, who Zamparini called "the new Messi," would be a coup. While the 21 year old forward is probably not really the next Lionel Messi, his play does remind one of a younger version of a certain Gonzalo Higuain, who many assume will be leaving Naples this summer. Napoli could do a lot worse in replacing Higuain than turning to Dybala -- especially if Zamparini is willing to give his good buddy De Laurentiis preferential treatment in the negotiations.
Zamparini said that his impression of his conversation with De Laurentiis was that Napoli's owner intends to improve his squad whether Napoli make the Champions League or not, and Dybala would certainly fit that goal. He's a gifted goalscorer who also has a good eye for helping out his teammates, either with a penetrating pass or using a smart run to pull a defender or two out of position.
Some critics point to Dybala's goalscoring rate as not being good enough, but at his age lacking a little polish in his finish is to be expected. You can see his potential when he heats up, and if he can add just a little consistency to his game, he could be a monstrous player. The rest of his play is well-rounded enough that it seems like adding that consistency is just a matter of time patience. Put him in a team where he has Marek Hamsik setting him up and Lorenzo Insigne and Manolo Gabbiadini on either side, and this player could really blossom.
Napoli won't have an easy time getting Dybala, with Juventus after him, as well as Manchester United and Liverpool, among other big clubs. Napoli might be the best fit for him, but with other clubs able to dump wheelbarrows full of cash at him that the partenopei just can't match, they may not be able to land him. If Zamparini can influence his decision, though, and Napoli do get him -- man, that could be fun.