ROME (AP) — That’s what Jose Mourinho had in mind when he persuaded Paulo Dybala to join Roma instead of a host of other rivals.
Dybala scored twice in less than an hour – his first since joining Roma after his contract at Juventus expired – and the Giallorossi top Serie A on Tuesday To reach Silvio Berlusconi’s promoted Monza beat 3-0.
“I had a lot of desire to score and luckily they came here in front of our home fans,” said Dybala.
Dybala linked up perfectly with centre-forward Timmy Ibrahim, the first high-profile player Mourinho brought to Roma when the coach returned to Italy last year.
First, a headed pass from Ibrahim took Dybala close to midfield and the Argentina international dribbled the rest of the way before slipping between two defenders.
Dybala’s second – his 100th in Serie A – was an attempted knock on the rebound from Ibrahim’s shot.
When Dybala came on during the second half, he shared a special moment with Mourinho.
“Last season during the game against Juventus when he came off, I told him you are good,” Mourinho said. “I told him the same thing today.”
The coach also noted how the oft-injured Dybala is expected to return to form ahead of the upcoming World Cup.
“It could be a sign of what’s to come in November and December in Qatar,” Mourinho said. “Maybe (Argentina coach Lionel) Scoloni sent us a few bottles of wine to celebrate having another great player.”
Center back Roger Ibanez made it 3-0 with a header from Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini in the corner.
In search of more tangible hardware after winning the inaugural Europa League title last season, Mourinho’s side moved a point ahead of Inter Milan, who beat Cremonese 3-1 at the San Siro.
Roma’s last Serie A title came in 2001.
“There is a positive feeling in the team, having won a big title, but it is too early to talk about (the trophy),” said Dybala.
Defending champions AC Milan were left two points behind after a 0-0 draw at Sassuolo ahead of Saturday’s derby with Inter – a team it battled at the top of the standings until the final day of last season.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi’s Monza remain at the bottom of the standings with zero points in their Serie A standings. Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister and owner of Milan, bought Monza in 2018 and brought the team up from Serie C.
With Romelu Lukaku injured, Joaquin Correa, Niccolo Barella and Lotaro Martinez scored for Inter as the Nerazzurri bounced back from a 3-1 loss against Lazio.
Correa got a shot back from Edin Dzeko, Barela drilled in a long volley then Barela set up Martinez to finish off the counter-attack.
David O’Kiric pulled one back for Cremona in the dying minutes.
It was a quieter finish for Milan than when it won its first Italian title in 11 years at Sassuolo on the final day of last season.
Amidst a near change of ownership, the Rossoneri’s main highlight came when goalkeeper Mike Magnan saved a penalty.
It was the second consecutive title for Milan, who won their first Italian title in 11 years.
Mignon stopped a poor guiding penalty by Domenico Berardi in the first half – marking the ninth penalty he has saved out of 29 he has faced since arriving in Serie A from Lille last year.
Berardi, an Italian striker, was injured in the second half, while Milan were left with 10 men when Alessandro Florenzi was injured, but all the team’s substitutes had already been used.
Earlier on Tuesday, it was revealed that the New York Yankees are taking a minority stake in Milan with Redbird Capital Partners as an investor. The closing for the ownership change is expected in the next few days, making for a busy week in the build-up to Derby.
Milan coach Stefano Pioli said: “The boys already know the problems we had today and this is an important aspect in preparation for the derby.” “A derby is a derby. The rivalry with Inter is beyond standard.