Pogba Risking His Legacy With Man Utd Struggles
30 September 2019 Sport
Paul Pogba the Frenchman seemed destined for greatness a few years ago but his legacy may be on the line having disappointed at Old Trafford.
Pogba comes across as an extremely self-assured man, and why wouldn’t he be? He is a World Cup winner. He is one of the most expensive players of all time and commands an impressive salary.
He has triumphed at Juventus, and Zinedine Zidane wanted him at Real Madrid. He has seen off Jose Mourinho and he has scored brilliant goals. He is a social phenomenon and proved Sir Alex Ferguson wrong.
It is little surprise that Pogba looks back on his achievements and draws confidence from them. He is innately talented and has occasionally applied those talents in order to make himself one of the world’s most in-demand midfielders.
He is 26 and should be in his prime for the next four or five years. Despite this, it appears more than likely that he will leave a legacy of disappointment.
If we look elsewhere, we can see numerous examples of players who have made the most of their talent. Lionel Messi was committed to learning from Pep Guardiola, as Raheem Sterling is now.
Cristiano Ronaldo is obsessed with being the best he can possibly be professionally. Even down the lower end of the talent scale, you have a James Milner who has reached the apex of the game as a Champions League winner through sheer hard work and dedication.
In terms of natural ability, Pogba can match almost everything produced by the greatest footballers in the world. The depressing difference seems to be that he chooses not to. His long-distance passing is unrivalled. His touch can be faultless, and he has the strength of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But he ducks out of tackles, dithers in his own half, and allows himself to be overwhelmed by his markers. His best qualities are overshadowed by his most careless traits.
Former Manchester United player Paul Parker believes Pogba is fading out of the picture at United due to his desire to be elsewhere.
“He’s talking himself out of it, he’s not really joining the party,” Parker told Goal.
“Every time he talks, it’s about when he’s going to leave, and about the relationship between him and Zidane.
“That is the biggest problem for Pogba at the moment.”
If Pogba wants to be remembered fondly for his time at United, he is blowing it. This is a side that can’t match his ambitions, yet, but the very best players in the world can play in such a way as to inspire others around them.
Eric Cantona, another gifted Frenchman, was at the heart of the Class of ‘92’s desire to be great. His arrogance was coupled with hard work.
Pogba is far from lazy, but there are no stories of him taking Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood to one side and imparting his knowledge on them. He is not leading by example and is showing himself to be an unreliable foundation to the side Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes to build.
When the Frenchman returned to Manchester in 2016, he was supposed to be the catalyst – along with fellow arrivals Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Jose Mourinho – for Man Utd’s rebirth.
Briefly, he undertook the challenge to meet those expectations. But as the squad deteriorated, and Mourinho began to clash with everyone around him, he contributed less and less to the side. Things have not improved for the midfielder since Mourinho’s departure last year – despite a hot streak at the start of Solskjaer’s reign.
As it stands, there is nothing to take from Pogba’s time at Man Utd to suggest he will become an all-time great. Madrid decided this summer that there were £300 million ($369m) worth of players they needed before him. Last season, Barcelona offered an almost insulting £50m ($61m) plus Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes for the ex-Juve man.
Next summer, Zidane may not even be at Real, and there may be no club willing to take a risk on a player who will likely be coming off the back of four inconsistent and unfulfilled seasons. Even United fans have started to turn on him. As Parker points out: “Every footballer wants their ego to be massaged, but he is missing a golden opportunity to be remembered.”
The world of football evolves quicker today than ever before. Mourinho’s conservative tactical approach is close to being obsolete, less than a decade after his Champions League triumph with Inter. Meanwhile, Guardiola has been forced to learn from Jurgen Klopp as the pair of them continue to search for an extra edge.
On the pitch, classical No.10s are disappearing from the sport while specialist players in general are less and less in demand. Now, footballers need to be able to do a bit of everything – especially midfielders. They must be able to pass, tackle, press, cross, shoot and fulfil a number of tactical roles.
Pogba is still only 26, but with the game continuing to demand ever more, he risks being left behind. And if he is, he will not go down in history as one of the best of his generation.