Paulo Dybala: How the Argentine ‘Gladiator’ went from rough diamond to Juventus ‘jewel’

Dybala’s ‘gladiator mask’ celebration is a reflection of the difficult days that followed the death of his father

On the surface, Laguna Larga looks no different from any other small town in Argentina.

It has an agricultural heart, a main square, two petrol stations, a school, a museum and two football clubs.

But it is probably the only place in the country where Lionel Messi comes second.

“This is Paulo Dybala’s town,” reads a giant billboard on Ruta Nueve, the road that connects Argentina’s three main cities – Cordoba, Rosario and Buenos Aires.

It was a special birthday gift to the 25-year-old Juventus forward two years ago, and symbolises the borders of his kingdom.

Here, no-one here would ever use his surname. Only outsiders say Dybala. To Laguna Larga’s 7,500 inhabitants, he is Paulo.

This is where he grew up, the youngest of three brothers, in a town otherwise best known for a failed bank robbery