At one stage or another, every big club has rolled the dice on a promising young talent only to have it come to nothing.
We could be here all day reeling off players who got scouts hot under the collar only to amount to little in maturity. For every Neymar, there's a Keirisson, for every Cristiano Ronaldo, a Bebe.
The step up from a smaller league, the academy or the reserves to first-team football at a European superpower requires more than just talent, it demands an appetite and an ability to thrive on pressure that's impossible to quantify.
But it's not every day we see a club invest in a prospect only to lose him right at the crucial moment he's ready to shine. Sir Alex Ferguson made plenty of good decisions during his 26 years at Manchester United but marginalising Paul Pogba wasn't one of them.
Disappointed at the lack of first-team football he was getting, the Frenchman headed for pastures new, arriving as a Bosman at Italian champions Juventus.
A curious decision on his part, considering that the Bianconeri's midfield was one of the strongest in the world and, on paper, a place less in need of freshening up than United's. Chances for Pogba would be limited in Turin, too. Or so we all thought.
It's been little over 10 months since Pogba landed in Serie A, but he's already an established star. Twenty-seven appearances in the league have cemented his reputation as an excellent midfielder, one with an all-round game and the ability to be effective up and down the pitch. He's also featured eight times in the Champions League—more appearances than he made in total during his three-year spell in Manchester.
The future looks bright for Pogba, which is why there's been plenty of rumours surrounding him of late.
The British press are suggesting that both Manchester City and Arsenal would be prepared to pay as much as €20 million for his services, as reported by James Dickenson here in The Express. But even though that sum would represent a huge profit on the free transfer they made last summer, it would be bad business for Juve because they won't find another like him.
As far as the player is concerned, the young Frenchman has shown himself to be unafraid of change if it furthers his career, having moved from Torcy to Le Havre before swapping his homeland for the lure of the EPL.
Those moves were all motivated by Pogba's desire to succeed, and in that context made perfect sense. Even at a tender age, he knew his worth and wasn't shy about it. Each transfer brought him closer to achieving his goal of becoming the world-class footballer he believed he could be, which is why Juventus is different.
Speaking to France Football (here in English via espn.com), Pogba explained why he had to leave Manchester. Promises had been made and broken, he felt, but not about money. He was desperate to play, and Ferguson was stopping him from doing that. In his words:
I'm impatient. Even if I was quite patient, Alex Ferguson told me: 'You're a whisker away from playing ... You're a youngster from the academy, you're not ready yet. You must be patient. Scholes was, Giggs was.' I'm not Giggs, I'm not Scholes. I really wanted to play.
I said: 'Okay, no problem.' If I'm not ready, perhaps I'll be ready elsewhere. I at least felt ready to have more playing time. He didn't show me enough that he wanted me in his squad. Even if he said some nice things about me, about my potential, if you don't show it, it's all just hot air.
"It all depends on what you have in your head. If you want to play at Manchester just to be able to say 'I play at United', even though you're on the bench, are you happy? I came on a few times, I played in the cups, but I wanted to have more playing time. If I could have played in China, I would have gone to China.
Ferguson might not agree, but it's hard to argue with that. A little ruthless, perhaps, but that kind of ambition is exactly the sort of thing that turns the good to great and a stalemated game to a win.
Pogba's got the drive to match his talent, and Antonio Conte is allowing him to express both. It's worked wonders for the club, who have found a young, top-class player for free, and for the 20-year-old, who's getting the game time he wants not just at club level but also with Didier Deschamps senior France side as well.
In the same interview, Pogba revealed how important his current boss has been.
Conte told me: 'With me, there's no youth, it's the best who plays. If you think you can establish yourself here, come, and we'll see if you're able to do it, show us what you can do.'
He pushed me, he struck where it was needed to convince me. I like being given challenges like that. I like indirect provocation.
Pogba's only at the start of his Italian adventure, but he's a key fixture in Conte's plans. The club clearly values the player and sees him as a crucial element in their development over the coming seasons.
He's found himself in an environment where he's appreciated and one that's obviously good for his game. Thirty-seven appearances and five goals in the heart of a championship-winning midfield attests to that. However, if he'd be made to move, Juve would be made to let him.
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