Juventus Must Match Paul Pogba's Champions League Ambition

Andy BrassellFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

Paul Pogba, pictured with Benfica's Maxi Pereira, will want more from Juve's European adventures.
Paul Pogba, pictured with Benfica's Maxi Pereira, will want more from Juve's European adventures.Associated Press

With so much football from all over the world available for fans to watch in this day and age, the World Cup no longer gives us that buzz of stars appearing from virtually nowhere. It does, however, have the potential to make respected talents into household names. Paul Pogba is a prime candidate to be catapulted on that journey into mega-stardom this summer.

It is extraordinary to think that after just eight senior appearances, Juventus star Pogba is a key figure in Didier Deschamps' France midfield, but that's exactly what he is. Such is the irresistible pace of the 21-year-old's ascent that a decisive performance in Brazil, and a subsequent big transfer, would not surprise.

On first glance, a move would appear to be the last thing that Pogba needs. At a tender age, he has already nailed a regular place in the imperious Italian champions' formidable midfield, often at the expense of the excellent Claudio Marchisio.

Indeed, Juve great Pavel Nedved has already appealed to Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, that he "mustn't think about money, but rather focus on what is best for the career growth of the player" (as per Football Italia).

This overlooks one factor, of course—that Pogba is, and always has been, a young man who can make up his own mind. In a recent interview with BBC World News, he chided Manchester United for their "disrespect" in pushing him to the margins in the latter part of his spell at Old Trafford.

Pogba, celebrating the Serie A title here with Leonardo Bonucci, is fiercely ambitious.
Pogba, celebrating the Serie A title here with Leonardo Bonucci, is fiercely ambitious.Massimo Pinca/Associated Press/Associated Press

Having already upset a few people at his academy club, Le Havre, to move to Old Trafford in the first place, Pogba ignored those who said he would struggle to make an impact in Turin to back his own ability. Now, with interested parties circling and Juve seemingly at some sort of crossroads, perhaps Pogba could force the issue again.

Coach Antonio Conte's plans could weigh on matters. He was non-committal about his future in the wake of Monday's title celebrations after the win over Atalanta. As reported in Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian), Conte said that he has a special relationship with Juventus and that it will always be his home.

Perhaps even more indicative of Conte's thoughts was his summary of an "intense and stressful" three years as coach yielding extraordinary returns, which he conceded "are not easily improvable." The Champions League exit to Galatasaray still hurts most from this campaign even if the failure to reach the Europa League final in their own stadium was a disappointment. They need to bridge that gap in Europe and convince Pogba that they are aiming to do so.

Keen suitors Paris Saint-Germain have some juggling to do if they are to incorporate Pogba, with Financial Fair Play (FFP) restrictions on the way according to L'Equipe's print version. Etienne Moatti writes that spending €60m on Pogba would mean that the wage bill could not go any higher. In other words, if Pogba were to sign, they'd have to sell in order to pay his wages, too.

Real Madrid are also rumoured to be keen according to Italian site Calcio Mercatio (via 101 Great Goals), with the Bernabeu club's board encouraged by Zinedine Zidane to nail a burgeoning French talent. Juve director general Beppe Marotta has played down the urgency of the situation (via Football Italia), but signing Pogba to a new deal before the World Cup (he has one year left on his current one) is surely imperative.

If Conte does go, Juve responding quickly is also essential. Pogba is a player who couldand shouldrepresent the club's future. He has high ambition, not least in the Champions League, which needs to be matched.