Paul Pogba has already shown his abilities for Juventus, and the 21-year-old mid is primed to shine for France at the World Cup.
By Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip)
France arrive in Brazil for this summer’s FIFA World Cup with a talented, but untested squad. Didier Deschamps’ men were dealt a blow when Franck Ribery—their talisman and by far most experienced player at the international level—was ruled out of the tournament with injury last week.
However, the Bayern Munich man’s absence does not appear to have weakened Les Bleus on the pitch, and an 8-0 demolition of a poor Jamaica side sent them off to South America with a massive boost in confidence.
With so many young talents such as Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Digne starting to emerge in the side, it is difficult to pick out one potential star set to explode onto the international scene this summer. But one player stands out, slightly ahead of Varane, Griezmann and Digne.
That man is Juventus’ Paul Pogba.
Since leaving Manchester United for the Serie A giants on a free transfer in 2012, the 21-year-old has enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence. Now, two years later, he is regarded as one of the greatest potential talents in world football and is regularly being linked with moves away from Turin for mind-boggling sums of money.
Despite the obvious distractions off the pitch though, Pogba has remained focused on it, and his rise through the youth levels of the French national team is testament to that.
Formed at Havre Athletic Club, the prodigiously talented midfielder was snapped up before he even got a chance to feature for the senior side—famed for its youth academy—that now languishes in Ligue 2. But after just a handful of appearances in a three-year stay in Manchester, he left for Juventus and is now thriving in Italy.
Since arriving at Juventus Stadium, he has already won the title twice and—despite having made his senior international debut for France in March of last year—captained the French to Under-20 World Cup success in Turkey last summer.
Along with Digne, he could be celebrating a second consecutive world title if Les Bleus click in the way that they have threatened to since overcoming a 2-0 first leg playoff deficit to reach Brazil.
Pogba is a key element in Deschamps’ central midfield three that also includes PSG pair Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye. That trio—arguably the finest on display at the tournament—is integral to the 1998 World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship-winning captain’s hopes in South America.
Whether or not France can go all the way to the final remains to be seen, but Pogba looks set to enhance his market value significantly as he is set to feature prominently.
The France No. 19’s driving runs from midfield are already a key feature for this team that is clearly being built ahead of Euro 2016, but with more than an eye on progressing as far as possible this summer too.
Although Pogba is yet to arguably fully exploit his potential—certainly in terms of the way he uses his size and impressive physique—there is little doubt that he will eventually get there. Playing in his first World Cup aged 21, there are realistically at least another three tournaments ahead of him if all goes as expected.
His maturity—and that of Varane, Griezmann and Digne, to their credit—is a key reason for their inclusion despite their young ages. All four are precocious talents, yet they possess the sort of character that Deschamps wants to build this France team around.
Manchester City’s Samir Nasri is no less talented than the likes of these young guns, yet the mental difference is astonishing and also the main reason the controversial but creative talent was ultimately left behind.
By the time Pogba comes of age, he will already have a wealth of experience under his belt and no doubt an impressive collection of trophies. But for now, he is unburdened by the question of leadership and can simply focus on announcing himself on the world stage and helping to lead this relatively inexperienced France side toward the latter stages.
If Pogba shines as brightly as he does for Juventus domestically, then France could prove to be extremely formidable foes for any side in Brazil.