It’s finally here! Four years of waiting are over and the FIFA World Cup has arrived!
Fans around the world will be glued to the action over the next month as we unite to bask in the feast of football. For the players, though, it offers an unrivaled chance to elevate their career to mind-bending heights.
We could be about to see the emergence of world football’s next icon.
France’s Paul Pogba is hardly an unknown name in world football. In fact, most fans across Europe will have become familiar with the name over the past few years—those who have seen him on a regular basis will testify that he has all the credentials to steal the show in Brazil.
As per BBC Sport, the French youngster infamously quit Manchester United to join Juventus on a free transfer in 2012. That acrimonious departure started a war of words between player and ex-manager Sir Alex Feguson, who was not happy at the “lack of respect” shown by the then-teenager. Since making the switch to Turin, though, Pogba has been nothing short of sensational.
During his first two seasons in Italy, Pogba has helped the Bianconeri to consecutive Serie A titles. Having previously played a significant role throughout his maiden campaign, the Frenchman’s contribution this season was phenomenal.
According to WhoScored.com, Pogba was the highest performing central midfielder in Serie A this season and was named as part of the division’s Team of the Season.
In addition to that, as per Football Italia, Pogba also received the Golden Boy award in 2013—an annual award that is presented to the best young player in European football. He follows in the footsteps of Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Cesc Fabregas.
It is easy to forget that Pogba is still very much a developing talent. The 21-year-old has amassed just 51 league starts in club football and only made his senior France debut in March 2013.
However, that should not detract from the obvious genius that lies at the Frenchman’s feet. Despite boasting just 11 senior caps to his name, Pogba heads to Brazil as one of Les Bleus’ star attractions. Alongside Karim Benzema, the Juventus star is probably France’s best chance of success.
According to the Daily Star’s George Scott, the midfielder has faced some criticisms, being labelled by some fans as ‘lazy’ while manager Didier Deschamps has warned that he must eradicate bad habits from his game.
However, as explained by Patrick Haond of Sky Sports, Pogba has vowed to shine in Brazil. He told French newspaper L’Equipe, via Haond:
People say I am nonchalant, that I play easy, but that is how my football has been since I was a kid. That doesn’t prevent me from being focused.
I am realising my dream. I am happy and proud of what has been achieved so far, but it is not over.
It is nice to play at a World Cup, but it is much better to win. I hope we will go as far as possible in the competition.
Those comments demonstrate a self-assurance that you could argue was misinterpreted as arrogance by Manchester United. Following his Old Trafford exit, Pogba virtually walked straight into the first XI at Juventus and it seems quite bizarre that he never made a single league start during his spell in England.
For whatever reason, Pogba’s face seemingly didn’t fit at Old Trafford during that spell. The young star isn’t the only promising youngster to fall out with the former Manchester United boss, as Ravel Morrison also quit around the same time as the Frenchman.
Pogba and Morrison were painted as the tearaway teens after quitting Old Trafford but, while the former has suffered a stuttered progress since joining West Ham United, the Frenchman has proved his doubters wrong with two exceptional seasons in Italy.
With Ferguson retired, the Red Devils are reportedly chasing his signature once more—although, as per Marc Williams of the Guardian, a £60 million valuation could prove to be a huge stumbling block for the Manchester club.
That fee may seem quite excessive for a 21-year-old with just over 50 league starts to his name, but Pogba has more than proved his worth in Turin.
As per Goal.com’s Mark Doyle, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has stated his belief that “Pogba is the best midfielder in the world." High praise indeed for the young French star.
There are a number of promising youngsters who have the potential to be top stars for years to come. However, what sets Pogba apart from the rest is that he has the credentials to light up the biggest stage now.
The midfielder already boasts a huge physical presence on the pitch and does not shy from any tackle or aerial duel. Meanwhile, a keen eye for goal combined with superb passing accuracy has seen him register seven goals and seven assists for Juventus in 2013/14—in addition to two goals for the national side, including the opener in last month’s demolition of Norway.
In the absence of Benzema, Pogba stood out as the star performer against Norway and it is strikingly obvious that Les Bleus have high hopes for their star midfielder this summer.
Just twelve months ago, Pogba was representing his country at the U20 World Cup in Turkey. The Juventus star not only skippered Les Bleuets to a first title, he also picked up the UEFA Golden Ball after being voted the tournament’s star performer.
Pogba’s meteoric rise is almost incomprehensible, but Serie A is a notoriously difficult league to ply your trade and dominating it at such an early age shows that he is ready to be placed in the top bracket of current stars. A World Cup in Brazil is the ultimate opportunity to verify his position amongst football’s elite.
France’s relatively easy group should allow Les Bleus to progress to the latter stages, which in turn will afford Pogba ample opportunity to prove his worth in Brazil.
The fact Deschamps’ men probably won’t stake a genuine claim for the title will probably prevent the midfield maestro from being named Player of the Tournament. However, there’s a strong chance he’ll win the Young Player award.
Get ready for the world’s newest global phenomenon to be born.
Do you think Pogba will perform on the big stage? Post your thoughts below.
Appearance stats from WhoScored.com and Soccerway.