The Rise of Juventus Midfielder Paul Pogba

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The Rise of Juventus Midfielder Paul Pogba
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I'm coming around to Paul Pogba. When the young Frenchman left Manchester United for Juventus, there was much talk of agent skulduggery and double-dealing.

Was he coming for playing time or a bigger salary? Did he just believe his own hype? It reeked of modern football's great malady: the pursuit of wealth and fame above all else. 

He'd hardly kicked a ball for United, after all, and having been offered a new deal was suddenly too good for England's biggest team. Not only that, but he honestly expected to find space for himself in what is arguably the best midfield in world football. Yeah right.

Yeah, right. Pogba's come to Serie A and taken the Italian league by storm. Football's awash with talk of players "breaking into a squad," but with Pogba the hyperbole seems about right. He hasn't just settled into life in Turin—he's invaded it. 

The 20-year-old played more than 30 games for Juve in his first season, joining the all-star cast of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal in the centre of the park. Marchisio and Vidal are world-class players. Pirlo's a living legend.

And oddly enough, the upstart Pogba looks right at home. 

There's still room for improvement, of course. But that's what makes him such an exciting player. He's already very good, but he has the potential to become great, in the true sense of the word. 

Flashes of such brilliance were on display last year on more than one occasion. The last-minute, match-winning goal against Bologna was special. So too was his performance against Napoli.

It beggars belief that a manager as experienced and astute as Alex Ferguson left a player with such obvious quality in the reserves. The midfield has been United's weakest link for far too long, and the injection of pace, intelligence, strength and control that Pogba would have brought could have completely transformed the entire side. 

Fergie's loss has been Antonio Conte's gain. And the old stereotype about Italian managers favouring experienced veterans while their colleagues abroad give youth a chance has been turned on its head. It was never true anyway. Italian managers favour proven quality over potential still in question. 

The likes of Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti made their debuts at 16 because they were ready. Pogba's older but of the same ilk. He fits the bill for the old adage: "If you're good enough, you're old enough." 

With a stellar debut season under his belt at the Bianconeri, all the old noise about his contractual infidelities, both at United and at Le Havre before, has fallen quiet. Pogba's happy at Juve, and they're happy to have him. 

Did he clash with Ferguson over not being played enough? Yes. Was he right to? Yes, he was. At the time it looked like impetuousness at best, full-blown arrogance at worst. Now it just looks like frustration and common sense. Any squad with room for the likes of Anderson must surely have room for Pogba. 

It is still early days. All too often we get carried away with the excitement of the moment. It's a 21st-century fixation with the new—the next big thing. We confuse potential with achievement and applaud an instant as loudly as a lifetime.

I've written in the past that Pogba's future is still a little uncertain, and though he's impressed more since the time of that article, it still rings true because, well, all futures are uncertain. 

Fans worship the likes of Pirlo for more than what he does in a game; they worship him for what he's done in countless games. Pogba might one day be at that level—or he might not. We won't know for another 10 years, and there's no way to rush that. Of course, while we're waiting we can watch him play.

Which isn't such a terrible fate, after all. 

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