Pogba emerging as a player to watch for Juventus

French midfielder making Manchester United rue the one who got away, writes Ian Hawkey

Juventus' French midfielder Paul Pogba reacts during the Italian Serie A match against Genoa on October 29, 2014, at Luigi Ferraris Stadium in Genoa. Marco Bertorello / AFP
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Personally, Paul Pogba had a good week. Shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, the Fifa world footballer of the year award, he is the only one of the 23 candidates for that prize playing in Italy’s Serie A.

Pogba, a France international, has just renewed his contract with Juventus, which has tripled his salary. He said: “I want to become the best player in the world.” At 21, he has time on his side.

Challenges ahead

Professionally, though, Pogba has not had a great week. His Juventus lost for the first time in the league this season, at Genoa, on Wednesday. He will seek to make amends against Empoli on Saturday and to galvanise a faltering Uefa Champions League campaign against Olympiakos on Tuesday.

The ‘next Vieira’

Because of his size and style of midfield play, the precocious Pogba was often compared in his native France to Patrick Vieira, the former France, Arsenal and Juventus player. Long-legged, firm in the challenge and tall, there are certain similarities. He has, though, identified Manchester City's Yaya Toure, another midfielder on the Ballon d'Or short list, as the player he models himself on.

The frat pack

Pogba has two brothers, Florian and Mathias, who are twins, three years older than he is. Both are international footballers, too, though their handful of caps have been gained with Guinea, where they were born. The family moved to France when the twins were less than a year old and settled there. Florian, a defender, plays at Saint-Etienne, in France’s Ligue 1, Mathias, a striker, is with Pescara in Italy’s Serie B.

True Bleu

The French Football Federation, who capped Florian Pogba at Under 20 level, made sure Paul, born in France, was committed to the country internationally from an early age. Paul Pogba captained the Les Bleus U16s and played at every age-group level for France. He won his first senior cap a week after his 20th birthday, in March 2013. At the World Cup in Brazil, he was first-choice in France's central midfield. After France's quarter-final elimination, by Germany, he was voted Fifa's best young player of the tournament.

Au revoir to the Reds

Quite why Pogba is making himself a Juventus legend and not a hero at Manchester United is unclear. United snatched him from Le Havre in his teens, but, by 2012, he was reluctant to sign a new contract there, citing a lack of first-team opportunities. Alex Ferguson, then the United manager, used him sparingly. So Juventus swooped and, with his having won two Serie A titles in as many years there, he evidently feels a degree of gratitude, and at home in Turin.


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