Paul Pogba has never been shy at proclaiming his own talent but it seems the Juventus midfielder is finally living up to his undoubted potential.
Released by Manchester United when aged 19, there were fears his name would be the latest added to the long list of teen prodigies who were on the scrapheap by their early 20s after failing to make the grade. Pogba has had to take a step back on his own carefully-planned career progression ladder and learned from the setback.
It never worked out for him at Old Trafford for a variety of reasons – not least because he once riled Sir Alex Ferguson by publicly claiming he should be in the first team before his time had come. He made just seven appearances in all competitions for the Premier League giants and it never quite looked like Fergie trusted him so he’s had to work his way back to the top in Turin.
And now, it seems, he has arrived. Pogba, who has been quoted in the past saying he firmly believes he can become the best midfielder in the world, clearly does not suffer from a lack of self-confidence. He has even gone as far to say his ultimate aim is to go on and become the best player in the world bar none – a boast plenty will struggle to take too seriously for now. However, his performances on the pitch are beginning to at least grab more attention than what he’s keen to point out in press conferences off it.
Pogba scored the first Champions League goal of his career against Olympiakos for Juve recently and also drew the foul that led to his side’s opening goal, a free kick that was typically despatched by Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo.
Pogba is a different type of modern midfielder to Pirlo but he can still learn plenty from the 35-year-old on how to dominate a game from the middle of the park, even if his all-action box-to-box approach is in contrast to Pirlo’s possession-based game.
The Frenchman, who already has 20 caps and five goals for his country at senior level, was regularly linked with a move away from Juve before he decided to commit his future to them only recently. He is now tied to the Old Lady until 2019, but the fact he was routinely attracting attention from Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League big boys proves just how far he has come in the past couple of years. Pogba has become a mainstay in the Juventus line-up and he is now seen as crucial to his side’s chances of more Scudetto glory this term with the current Serie A betting odds making Pogba and co odds-on to finish top of the pile again.
To further underline the assessment that Pogba is now one of the most feared central midfielders in European, if not world, football, he was the only Serie A player included in the 23-man list of nominees for the prestigious Fifa Ballon d’Or last week having won the Fifa ‘Golden Boy’ award last year, given to the best youngster in world football. He won’t come close to winning the main award yet, of course, but to be included among the cream of the crop to make the final shortlist means others are recognising his talents and admitting there is substance to the hype.
If he is to achieve his ambitious aim of going on to the be the best player in the world one day then winning such an award will be among his targets and, while it remains some way off, Pogba is now undoubtedly on the right course.