Making the step up to the top flight this term after running away with the Serie B title last term, there were plenty of questions regarding Palermo’s ability to survive in Serie A.
Waving goodbye to forwards Abel Hernandez and Kyle Lafferty – who combined for 25 goals in the promotion campaign – over the summer, the Rosanero needed firepower.
But the Sicilian club already had two starlets yet to truly shine within their ranks, and head coach Beppe Iachini had to look no further than Paulo Dybala and Franco Vazquez.
Iachini’s faith in the Argentine-born pair – Dybala standing as Palermo’s record transfer – has paid off in spades, although it has of course also led to envious glances from elsewhere.
Dybala finds himself one of the most sought-after youngsters in Europe, while 25-year-old Vazquez’s profile has steadily risen, especially through winning his maiden Italy cap.
While the two may end up on opposing sides of a North London derby, for the time being, Dybala and Vazquez remain in unison. Wreaking havoc on AC Milan on Saturday was the latest item of business on the docket as the season reaches its business end.
For all their brilliance, it’s been a bit of a struggle of late for the two, and Palermo as a whole. Heading into the weekend, the Rosanero had gone four games without scoring.
As early as the 22nd minute, their connection seemed to have come to pass. Some excellent work from Dybala saw him set up a golden opportunity for Vazquez on the edge of the six yard box – but the Italy international incredibly contrived to scuff wide of the target.
Vazquez’s lack of clinical edge would come back to haunt Palermo, as a coolly-taken second half penalty from Dybala wouldn’t be enough, with Jeremy Menez bagging a late winner for Milan.
Miss aside, the pair were largely on song. Milan struggled mightily to contend with their combination play, particularly in the first 60 minutes of the encounter.
Each created a pair of chances with lateral balls in the final third, combining for seven successful dribbles out of 14 attempts and winning four fouls between them, per Squawka.
Arsenal and Spurs will be pleased to see their respective targets in form, though it’s possible they’ll be on opposite sides of ball in the Premier League next term.
Nothing is yet certain, but it would be quite a storyline to see the two South American natives representing Arsenal and Tottenham after making their names in Europe alongside each other.