Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
Paul Pogba is a great player. Let’s get that clear straight away.
He arrived at Manchester United four years after I left the club so I only started watching him closely when he joined Juventus.
He scored some great goals from outside and inside the box, made some fantastic assists too.
As a goalscorer, he surprised me with the confidence which he played and his technique – he can shoot with both feet.
For such a tall man he has immense ball control and he’s very difficult to push off the ball.
He knew how to pick a pass too, to hit a long accurate pass which found his teammates, to change position during games to improve his team and confuse opponents. He never seemed to tire and his status rose from that of a player of much potential to the best young midfielder in the world, one wanted by all the biggest clubs.
But he was already playing for a big, rich, successful club in Juventus. They didn’t need or want to sell him, so if he left it was going to be for a very, very high fee.
He’s getting a lot of criticism at the moment because people don’t think he’s doing enough for United.
Paul Pogba in training ahead of Manchester United’s Europa League Round of 16 second leg tie with Rostov. Paul Ellis / AFP
Though he already has a lot of experience and far more international caps than the former players now criticising him had when they were the same age, he’s still young and still to reach his physical and mental peak.
He can play at the top level for another 12 years. He’s also at a club which can be patient, which is stable and where players are usually given time to develop and supported in a really professional environment.
The fans are patient too and I speak from experience when I took a lot longer than I would have hoped to score my first goal at Old Trafford. As a player you appreciate that massively – because there’s nothing as bad as when your own fans turn on you.
I think you’ll see a better Pogba next season, a player more relaxed with a proper pre-season behind him because he didn’t have that this season.
He also had all the fuss around his move from Juventus to Manchester, a major event in football which must have been distracting, if not for him, then his family too.
Paul Pogba came in for criticism after Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Chelsea on Monday. Will Oliver / EPA
He moved from being a player who cost Juventus nothing and from whom any success was a bonus to someone who was expected to produce magic, win football matches and score great goals – despite joining a team which had been struggling so much that they didn’t make the Uefa Champions League this season. And a Champions League without Manchester United is like a pizza with no toppings.
Mourinho has not been at the club a year. He’ll buy more players in the close season, better players to continue improving United, players who will fit in around Pogba because in spending all that money and getting him ahead of clubs like Real Madrid, United have made it clear that he’s going to be their man for the future in a way that Zlatan Ibrahimovic can’t because he is 35.
Even if Pogba doesn’t improve he’s already at a very high level. I’m not making that judgement off the back of what has been a difficult month for him, but after watching him become the player that he is over the past few years. But I also expect him to improve significantly.
We will see a better Paul Pogba next season. Paul Ellis / AFP
Pogba seems confident, but people don’t really know you when they judge you from the outside. And even if his exterior is confident, he won’t be blind to what people are saying about him.
His confidence could shoot up if he had a great game against a great team, if he scored a great goal in a big match – and with Pogba it could come from the right or left foot. Those little moments in football can tip everything in your favour.
I’ve also seen people criticise him because he’s busy on social media. I don’t see a problem with what he does. What’s he doing that is wrong?
Posting videos hasn’t caused him to miss training and he doesn’t post emotionally, he’s mature. And successful – and as his manager Jose Mourinho said, that invokes envy.
There have been many footballers guilty of doing worse things in their spare time than showing off a new haircut or dancing with their mum.
I saw a player lose his contract the other day because of what he said about his club on social media, but I’ve not seen anything from Pogba which would give me a problem if I was his manager.
Many fans – especially younger ones – love what he does when he sings and dances. I’ve heard people say there are no characters in football like there used to be. Well, here you have a young boy from a poor background in France who has made it big in football at a very young age and who dances around singing with gold hair next to a family wearing football shirts split between two different teams.
How much more of a character do you want?
Really, people criticise because they think he should be the finished article too soon. And he will become that because he’s a great player.
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