Paulo Dybala, Philippe Coutinho and other stars living in their team-mate's shadow

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A defensive preparatory for Juventus attack?

The biggest outfits in Europe boast such strength in depth that it’s not unusual to see plenty of star quality confined to the fringes of the squad.

There are several hugely talented players struggling to feature regularly in the first team, largely because of a team-mate in favour.

Many of these stars would likely stroll into most other top sides but are having to live in someone else’s shadow at their current clubs.

Here’s a look at five such players.


When Gabriel Jesus signed for Manchester City in January 2017, it felt like the beginning of the end for Sergio Aguero at Etihad, especially with the Brazilian hitting the ground running. However, Aguero’s class has shone through as he’s adapted to Pep Guardiola’s system and has been fully deserving of his reinstatement as City’s first choice striker.

The club’s all-time top scorer’s consistency in front of goal has dwarfed Jesus’ contribution this season. The 21-year-old has still bagged 16 goals across all competitions, but only six have come in the Premier League where the Argentine is preferred.

Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus


Paulo Dybala must be getting used to having phenomenal talent overshadowed by two of the greatest players of all time. He’s spent most of his international career with Argentina playing second fiddle to Lionel Messi and is now having to step aside for Cristiano Ronaldo to take centre stage at Juventus.

The Argentine thrived in a 4-2-3-1 system in behind the striker last season, plundering 26 goals in all competitions but has been restricted to a bit-part role in this campaign. The Bianconeri struggle for balance when he shares a pitch with Ronaldo and the Portuguese’s form has seen Dybala sacrificed.

He’s only scored three times in 21 Serie A matches this season and is being heavily linked with a move away from Turin. Even though Dybala scored a screamer against Frosinone on Friday and played superbly, it was Ronaldo who grabbed headlines for his effort despite being a peripheral figure for most of the encounter.

Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo


After a €142 million transfer from Liverpool to Barcelona just over a year ago, it’s astonishing to think that Philippe Coutinho may already be lined up for a Camp Nou exit. Ousmane Dembele’s short time with the Catalans has had its share of ups and downs, but he’s shown far more promise than the Brazilian.

Following a few disciplinary issues, the France international has roared back into the first team set-up this season, making some crucial contributions along the way. Coutinho on the other hand has rarely looked compatible with the Blaugrana’s style of play and has failed to make either the left wing or central midfield role his own.

Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho


It’s widely understood that Isco simply doesn’t fit into Santiago Solari’s system, but that is not the case for Marco Asensio.

The young Spaniard – at his best – is a real asset for Real Madrid. But a dip in form this season saw 18-year-old Vinicius Junior swoop in and establish himself on the left flank.

Such has been the Brazilian’s impact that Asensio hasn’t started in La Liga since November last year. He’s been confined to the bench of late despite his return from injury and faces an uphill task to regain a spot in the first XI.

Marco Asensio


James Rodriguez moved to Bayern Munich from Real Madrid on a two-year loan ahead of last season. The 2017/18 campaign saw him enjoy plenty of playing time at Allianz Arena as he won the Bundesliga, but Leon Goretzka’s arrival last summer along with that of Niko Kovac at the helm has changed things.

The new manager has preferred the more mobile and physical Goretzka ahead of the Colombian to occupy the role behind Robert Lewandowski. The German can be deployed deeper as well but even then, Thomas Muller has been more likely to get the nod.

James Rodriguez

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