Paul Pogba Is 'Great' but Not Yet at Steven Gerrard's Level, Says Rafa Benitez

Christopher SimpsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2017

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba leaves the pitch substituted during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Newcastle at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)
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Newcastle United boss Rafa Benitez has said Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is not yet at the level Steven Gerrard achieved following the Magpies' 4-1 defeat to the Red Devils on Saturday.

According to the Mirror's David McDonnell, Benitez said:

"No, they’re different. Stevie was a top-class player for so many years. He was very consistent and could make the difference in every game, with or without the ball.

"He was a top-class player. Pogba is a great player, but he still has to be consistent for years like Stevie was for 10 or 15 years."

Benitez managed Gerrard at Liverpool for six years, during which time they won the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez (R) shakes hands with player Steven Gerrard after they lost to Chelsea during a UEFA Champions League semi-final game at Stamford Bridge in London, on April 30, 2008. AFP PHOTO/ADRIAN DENNIS (Photo credit should read ADRIAN
ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

The former England international played a key role in both pieces of silverware, and while his decision to remain with the Reds for almost the entirety of his career—save for a late spell with L.A. Galaxy—limited the number of trophies he won, he is among the Premier League's best.

As a midfielder, Gerrard could do it all. His record of 184 goals and 105 assists for Liverpool speaks to his attacking and creative threat, but he was also a hard working ball-winner and the team's driving force in the centre, often leading by example and dragging the team to victory almost single-handedly at times.

It is perhaps premature for Pogba, 24, to be compared with Gerrard, and as Benitez indicated, only time will tell if the Frenchman can match the Liverpool legend's longevity.

Pogba is an excellent player in his own right, though. He returned on Saturday after a 12-game absence and put in a commanding performance in midfield, grabbing a goal and an assist to help the Red Devils come from behind to win comfortably.

Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News and Marca's Chris Winterburn were full of praise for him:

So too was United boss Jose Mourinho, per Luckhurst:

Pogba is United's chief creator, and the side had struggled to break teams down without him, showcasing his importance at Old Trafford.

While that perhaps also speaks to a lack of strength in depth in certain areas, Pogba is shouldering a great deal of responsibility and is doing so admirably.

He needs to do so long-term before comparisons with other top players can be made fairly, but if he keeps putting in the kind of performance he did on Saturday, he'll carve out his own place among the pantheon of midfield greats in time.