Will the real Paul Pogba please stand up?

Don’t be fooled by his haircuts and social media persona; Paul Pogba is just as clever off the pitch as he is on it, as he has shown over the years by some of the big decisions he has made.

Sir Alex Ferguson knew towards the end of his career that the game he loved and ruled over with an iron fist was changing, and not for the best in his eyes.

As more and more money flowed into the game, so came with it more and more people looking to fill their pockets.

Players were now seen as commodities, ways to make money and the better the player the more money to be made.

The days of young players cleaning boots and being happy just to train in the presence of the first team squad had long past.

Teenagers that would sign their first professional contract without even giving it a second thought, were now commanding huge sums and being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

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It was the beginning of a new era of player power and agent dominance when Paul Pogba left Manchester United in slightly acrimonious terms.

It was also a sign of things to come and how the way the game was ran behind the scenes was changing. In Sir Alex’s opinion, for the worst.

Maybe he was right when he said Pogba “lacked respect for the club” after his move to Turin, or maybe it was something more.

Young players didn’t leave Manchester United by choice, but that’s exactly what Pogba did due to his lack of game time.

Ferguson was quick to point out that if players want to carry on like he did, “they were better off doing it away from the club”.

In his eyes it was an honour to play for such an esteemed club as Manchester United and it is the player and his agent that should be doing everything in their power to convince the club that they are worthy of a place in the team.

This way of thinking was becoming less realistic though and it was agents such as Mino Railoa and George Mendes that realised that they, along with their players held the real power when it came to the negotiating table.

Manchester United fans at the time hadn’t shed too many tears though as the young man from the eastern suburbs of Paris left for Turin.

They trusted their managers judgement as they had done numerous times before when he decided to call time on other players careers, and Pogba was still young so his leaving did not seem like a huge blow to the team.

The move though left a bad taste in fans mouths and left the impression of a young footballer only interested in fame and money.

The decision to move away from Manchester United though turned out to be a brave, and in hindsight a smart career choice.

He was mature enough to back his own talent at the time, even if his agent was giving him a push towards the move. After all, he wasn’t guaranteed game time in Turin either.

At Juventus, he developed into one of the best midfielders in the game and he will always be remembered by the Bianconeri for his achievements on the pitch instead of off them, winning four Serie A title’s and reaching the Champions League final in 2015 in his time there.

Yes there were haircuts and Instagram and a lot self promotion, but in Italy this was not an issue because he was excelling on the pitch.

As long as he was performing on a weekly basis, then why worry about anything else off it.

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The Frenchman had transformed himself into one of the finest players in the game by the time he had moved back to Manchester in 2016 and all had been forgiven by the Old Trafford faithful.

In the World Cup in Russia on 2018, he once again showed his maturity by playing as a two in front of the French defence, a positon he did not relish, but still performed to the highest quality as he and his teammates went all the way to being crowned world champions.

This was something his club manager José Mourinho had accused him of being unable to do as he was too selfish to put the collective of the team before his own.

The two were at constant loggerheads over the last couple of seasons, eventually leading to the fans turning on Pogba for his perceived lack of effort on the pitch along with his supposed selfish behaviour off it.

Mourinho had managed to find himself a scapegoat as the good ship United began to sink with him at the helm, or so he thought.

Pogba was a player that had always backed his own ability and in doing so was acutely aware of his value to the club on and off the pitch.

Developing his celebrity off the pitch over the last number of years, meant he was more than just another footballer on the books to the club.

He was a money-making talent that could boost sales and social media numbers, someone to help make the brand of the club even bigger.

It’s this manoeuvring by Pogba, coupled with a host of bad results on the pitch from the team, that saw him come out on top in the battle with Mourinho.

At the time, much to the dismay of fans and former players who believed he was equally to blame. How easily they forgot about the player he was at Juventus and for France.

Gary Neville stated that Pogba could “do one as well” when referring to Mourinho’s sacking.

While he can be accused of downing tools for his manager towards the end of his reign, it’s obvious that he was unhappy at not being utilised correctly which affected his performaces.

His power play worked though and since the introduction of Olé Gunnar Solskjaer as manager, Pogba has been one of the best performers for his team and in the Premier League, scoring and assisting regularly and putting in Man of the Match performances that he was brought back to do.

Now all of a sudden, the haircuts and Instagram posts don’t seem that much of a big deal to the fans who have a smile back on their faces, like the player himself.

The Author

Philip Flanagan

A West of Ireland based football writer/blogger. You can find me daily over at The Bottomless pit of football.

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