The 19-year-old who said no to Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Pogba is delivering on his potential way ahead of schedule at Juventus. Scott Fleming writes.
“Pogba did very well with the goal, but he still needs to improve. He played an excellent opening 20 minutes, then became a little lazy and that is unacceptable.”
It was a nice try by assistant Juventus Coach Angelo Alessio. But at this point, trying to slow down the hype surrounding Paul Pogba is like trying to slow down the teenage titan when he's rampaging through midfield – futile.
That he's a good player shouldn't come as a surprise. The fact that he arrived from Manchester United, and that Sir Alex Ferguson was so irked by his departure, told us as much. “It's a bit disappointing because I don't think he showed us any respect at all,” sulked the Scotsman in July.
“A 19-year-old who said no to Ferguson, maybe he took it badly,” Pogba cheekily replied.
No one could have anticipated that the former Le Havre player would make such an impressive impact at such an early stage of his career in Turin however. It was only a month ago that he made his first competitive appearance for the Bianconeri, starting the home win against Chievo. A couple of late cameos aside, we didn't see him again until the 75th minute of the top of the table crunch match against Napoli two weeks ago.
Seven minutes after stepping off the bench and with the scoreline at 1-0, Pogba sealed a hugely significant victory for Juventus with a swish of his left boot, volleying past Morgan De Sanctis from distance.
It's within the past four days that the hype has really taken off though, sparked by his starting and finishing two full games and by a performance in the second against Bologna last night that was simply magisterial.
The young Frenchman skimmed then shuddered the post with a header and curling shot respectively, created Fabio Quagliarella's opening goal with an inspired lob over the Bolognese backline and – with Juve headed for a costly 1-1 draw – flung himself at a Sebastian Giovinco cross to net a 92nd minute winner.
“Pogba controlled the midfield, so much so that neither Arturo Vidal or Claudio Marchisio was missed, Juve have found a little champion,” proclaimed the Gazzetta dello Sport, the 6ft2 midfielder being described as 'little' the only part anyone could disagree with.
The question now of course is what happens when Vidal and Marchisio return from suspension and injury for the Derby d'Italia clash Scudetto six pointer against Inter on Saturday, and the most likely answer is that – just as he did for the Nordsjaelland game after his blockbuster against Napoli – Pogba will drop to the bench.
Nonetheless, simply by giving Antonio Conte that dilemma, he has already achieved a lot.
Willingly leaving United at the age of 19 because you aren't getting enough opportunities in the first team shows an enormous amount of self confidence. So does believing you'll find those opportunities at the Juventus Stadium, where Vidal, Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo stand in your way. A bit like sidling up to the Holy Trinity and telling one of them to hit the showers.
But on the evidence of Pogba's display last night, that confidence is entirely justified.