Another Ballon d’Or, yet another award shipped out to Cristiano Ronaldo without prompting the slightest bit of shock. It has become an incessant image, veering treacherously towards tedium, of either the Real Madrid master or his nemesis-in-chief, Lionel Messi, holding something shiny and golden.
Do not be disheartened though, it will not last forever. There lies a plethora of fine young talents in waiting, biding their time before they can topple football’s two undisputed kings and award darlings.
Of all the potential candidates to take up the mantel as the world game’s premier force, Paul Pogba is arguably the most refined, the most adroit and most impressive.
The Frenchman has seen his stock rise in spectacular fashion since making the bold decision to depart Manchester United for Juventus in 2012 and has already established himself as one of the most exciting talents in world football.
As if we needed one, the exceptionally blessed Frenchman brilliantly demonstrated why he is held in the highest regard at both club and country against Napoli on Sunday night. Watching the ball drop from directly over his head, Pogba produced a stunning volley which sailed into the far corner of Rafael Cabral Barbosa’s net.
The goal, a fine addition to Pogba’s already impressive portfolio, was also an important one – it opened up a three-point lead for Juventus over title-rivals Roma. Despite still being only 21, Pogba has the nerve and sheer self-confidence to pull of a wonder-goal in at a pivotal point in the season.
The Le Havre academy product has already grown in stature since he joined the Old Lady from United, emerging as a key figure on the pitch for Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, and before him, Antonio Conte. Last season, the skilful midfielder was nearly-ever present in the Bianconeri’s Scudetto-winning campaign- playing 36 out of 38 games, scoring seven goals.
Superlatives can be thrown at Pogba’s play from all angles, and deservedly so, as he has successfully managed to subject Manchester United fans to a most intense misery and grief – the loss of a truly great talent.
The specifics surrounding Pogba’s departure from United remain shroud in mystery and it was particularly eye-opening that the player was omitted entirely from Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, released last year. It is clear that Fergie, dipping into his great reserves for stubbornness and self-vindication, blacklisted Pogba from discussions as he was, by and large, the great manager’s most glaring error during his 26 years in charge at Old Trafford.
The French star has said since his United departure that he was not made to feel sufficiently wanted at the club and thus sought new employers, leading Juventus to win the race for his signature. He has not looked back since. Pogba has already forged a fine career for himself and has seen his standing in the game enhanced significantly as a result of regularly banging in goals of fantastic quality.
Pogba’s penchant for a spectacular volley is only one in a long-list of desirable attributes that has all-but sealed a mega-money move to either PSG or Real Madrid in the near future. His agent, Mino Raiola, this week admitted that his client will leave Turin when the time is right – roughly translated as the moment when PSG finally decide to offer an eye-popping wad of cash.
But he is one of those rare beings – a player that fully justifies his swiftly soaring price-tag. Moreover, Pogba’s hunger for the spotlight and his desire to be at the forefront of the world game is obvious and instils in him that extra dimension of determination; knowing that the summit is in sight but requiring a voracious appetite for self-improvement to achieve it.
Ronaldo has it and that quality was always well-documented and highly praised by Ferguson at United. Pogba is certainly not lacking in this department. This is a player who, since he departed France at 16, has employed his own physiotherapist – who treats him post-match, as well as in pre-season and winter breaks – and dietician.
In addition, Pogba has a magnificent aptitude for learning from his peers. He does not regard himself as a gleaming pillar of talent- he is always thirsty for a footballing education.
In training, Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal are my reference points. At each training session I try and learn, something new from those guys. I try and take on Claudio’s technique, or Arturo’s aggression, or the brilliant passing abilities of Andrea.
Some of the game’s greatest midfielders have publicly declared themselves admirers of him. “He is a warrior with a good spirit,” said France boss Didier Deschamps (a distinguished midfielder himself) of the man he handed a first senior cap earlier this year.
“He has everything it takes. People say he’s like me — I guess we have similar power in possession and he’s strong, quite tall, an elegant player,” said Arsenal and France legend Patrick Vieira. “But in his head he’s more attacking than I ever was. I would win more balls but he’s more technical. He’ll become one of the best in the world.”
It is clear that Pogba just needs to make the right decisions at the right time. Sometimes in football, a massive talent can be squandered at an even bigger club because of the intense expectations hurled onto his shoulders at a young age. It is only a natural mental reaction; it’s basic psychology.
Although Pogba seems to carry the bravura and strut to carry him through any period of turbulence in his career, it is careful not to under-estimate the dangers of the highest echelons of the game.
Pogba is well and truly established in the Juventus midfield and it would be, considering he is still, quite incredibly, in the formative stages of his career, a rather rash move to up-sticks at the first opportunity or to heed the beckoned call of the financial juggernauts of the game.
Pogba certainly has what it takes and a bumper contract is waiting for him to be signed somewhere, but perhaps he just needs to be carefully advised and initiate a great deal of patience. His time will come, there is no argument there.
There are other candidates raring to succeed Ronaldo and Messi at the top of the game naturally. James Rodriguez is one of them, Marco Reus is another. However, despite their undeniable gifts, there is a particular arrogance to Pogba that suggests he knows his trajectory is arrowed straight for the footballing stratosphere. This is not cockiness, it is just overt expressions of his precocious talents.
When the rangy midfield metronome came on for his Manchester United debut against Stoke in the Premier League, he demanded the ball off a certain Paul Scholes. Wait just a minute young man, this is a living legend you’re screaming at.
Pogba took no notice of it as he received possession and proceeded to turn Stoke defender Dean Whitehouse in effortless fashion before fizzing in a dangerous cross. Not a bad introduction.
Interestingly, it was Scholes that Pogba drew comparisons to during his graduation from the youth ranks at Old Trafford. His vision, technique and ability to dictate the pace of a top-flight match shows those parallels to be bang on.
Although it is hardly a secret, Pogba’s path looks to be heading straight for the gilded halls of Zurich where he will one day, barring an unmitigated catastrophe, receive that golden trophy hoisted in the air by Pogba’s fellow United ex-pat Ronaldo on Monday evening.