Paul Pogba had a great World Cup with France and will be remembered, just like Maradona’s “Hand of God” and Zidane’s headbutt, for his mesmerizing pass which provided 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe with a fourth goal in the 59th minute – one of the tournament’s highlights that Lionel Messi considers a proof of quality.
Pogba was some 65 yards from Croatia’s goal post when he got a pass, with defenders fawning on his seeming innocence until he unexpectedly delivered a knifing volley to the fleet-footed PSG star. That sublime moment reminds us of the Manchester United player’s pass against Australia which led to Les Blues’ first 2018 World Cup goal.
Pogba’s vision, ball control and stamina are some of the qualities that distinguish him from others; only a few players possess his skills, such that allow a defensive midfielder to regularly pick the ball in his own half, weave around defenders and launch a counterattack with perfectly weighed and accurate passes. That was absolutely gorgeous.
Pogba's pass to Mbappe which led to his goal… pic.twitter.com/1gwJrq9Unc
— World Football Index (@WorldFootballi) July 16, 2018
Despite Pogba’s form ahead of the global soccer tournament in Russia, his relationship with United coach Jose Mourinho was unpleasant thanks to the Portuguese’ prickly disposition. The France international footballer also had his commitment and football intelligence questioned by pundits. Even the outrageous transfer fee paid to Juventus appeared a waste of resources.
Yet, the 25-year-old proved himself with 10 assists despite staying out of competition for nearly two months in the 2017/18 English Premier League season. For those heroic exploits, he was ranked fifth in the last EPL season and now, a World Cup winner.
“I went from the biggest transfer in the world to the most criticized player in the world,” Pogba said as France celebrated their well-deserved victory over Australia. “The critics are always here.”
Former Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand, assessed Pogba’s situation with Mourinho and offered a wise piece of advice to the Portuguese coach.
Ferdinand sees a Ballon d’Or winner in Pogba, even if the club management and supporters don’t see it, and while Mourinho’s superstar-management skills have been questioned for his cautious, defensive-minded and conservative approach to football, the ex-England international player believes Pogba’s performance issue is a proof of wrong management.
United’s tactics and formation doesn’t suit the French star, and this claim is evident in his output at Juventus, where he played with freedom and regularly showcased some amazingly creative skills just like he did in an advanced role during their 4-2 routing of Croatia at the World Cup finals, scoring goal number 3.
GOAL! Griezmann lays the ball off to Pogba on the edge of the box, his first shot is blocked but the ball comes back to him and he curls a measured left-footed strike into the corner pic.twitter.com/kjcJRmwVEV
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 15, 2018
Speaking to BBC Sport in a post-match interview, Ferdinand described Pogba as “immense, especially in the second half against Croatia.”
His words, “The pressure was on and he [Pogba] has to come to the fore. There’s a huge price tag to his name…He has had a tough season in terms of the media and people from within the game calling him out in a Manchester United shirt.”
The ex-United defender advised Mourinho to find ways to unlock the Pogba we all saw at Russia 2018 because “he [Pogba] was responsible,”
“…He stood up to a lot of hard tests in midfield and was a talisman for this team,” Ferdinand continued, adding that it is obvious the jigsaw puzzle at United has not properly matched for some reasons.
“The way the team plays, I think ‘are they getting the ball into him in the right areas?’ He is not receiving the ball quickly enough.
“Is he being put in the right positions? These are the questions a manager must work out.’”
Meanwhile, Lionel Messi thinks he and Barcelona directors have the managerial acumen to harness Pogba’s talents.
Image: Paul Pogba and Lionel Messi
According to Don Balon, the Argentina national team captain wants to play alongside Pogba after his stunning performance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, United have insisted their player is not for sale unless interested buyers are ready to part with £132 million, a good compensation for the mammoth fee splashed on him last summer – including his increased value in the transfer market.
Pogba is considered a good replacement for Andres Iniesta, and his creativity in a free role as highlighted in the match against Croatia, shows he will fare better at Camp Nou. Barcelona fans would not agree less when Messi thinks high of the Frenchman.
Sadly for La Blaugranas, the Red Devils are plotting a new team built around Pogba this 2018/19 season. Yet, the football world has seen even bigger, shocking and ridiculous surprises in recent years.
Image: Lionel Messi and Paul Pogba