Paul Pogba's journey
Since Zinedine Zidane retired from football, we have barely seen players becoming the complete package in midfield. However, if someone has shown signs of becoming just that, it has to be Paul Pogba.
The Manchester United midfielder has shown signs of greatness in his time at Juventus, Manchester United, and the French National Team.
Being from United's AON Training Complex since his academy days, Pogba has now made the midfield position his own.
However, his journey to conquering the world wasn't as easy as it seems. Let's visualize his evolution down the years.
Introduction at Manchester United
In October 2009, Pogba joined the Manchester United Academy. His brilliant performances helped Manchester United win the FA Youth Cup.
His exceptional start impressed Sir Alex Ferguson, and there were chances that he gets the opportunity to be in the first team.
In February 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson named Pogba on the bench for the first time in an FA Cup match against Crawley Town. However, he wasn't able to get a chance in the senior team that season.
In the 2011/12 season, Manchester United had very few numbers in midfield. Paul Scholes had retired, and Owen Hargreaves had left the club. Therefore, Sir Alex Ferguson gave Pogba minutes in the first team.
Pogba made his debut against Leeds United in an English League Cup game. He came at half-time and United won the game comfortably.
Pogba made 3 Premier League appearances that season and also played the Europa League tie against Athletic Bilbao.
As Paul Scholes came back from retirement in the latter half of the season, Pogba's chances got even more limited. He could only register 7 appearances for his boyhood club in his first stint.
Breakthrough at Juventus
Sir Alex Ferguson was disappointed that Pogba did not sign a new contract with the club. He left Manchester United to join Italian giants, Juventus, on a free transfer.
Pogba made his Juventus debut against Chievo. After few days, he made his Champions League debut in a draw vs Shakhtar Donetsk.
His breakthrough came against Bologna, where he assisted Quagliarella's goal and scored the match-winning goal. In the 2012/13 season, he scored 5 goals in 37 games.
The 2013/14 season was a boom for Pogba. He was fundamental to Juventus' 4-0 win over Lazio in the Italian Supercoppa final. He also won the Golden Boy in 2013 and was considered as one of the finest youngsters coming through in Europe. His first goal in European competitions came against Trabzonspor. He made 51 appearances that season, second only to Gianluigi Buffon.
After Antonio Conte left the club, Pogba became even more instrumental under the new manager, Massimiliano Allegri. Pogba signed a 5-year contract with the club, keeping him in Italy until 2019.
His consistent performances and important goal contributions helped Juventus successfully defend the Serie A title and due to his consistency, he got shortlisted for the 2014 Ballon d'Or.
In his last season, Pogba was at the peak of his powers. He was one of the 10 players selected for the award of the 'best player in Europe'.
Afterward, he became part of the FIFA FIFPro World Eleven. He was instrumental as Juventus retained their Seria A title again. He found the net 10 times in his last season and made 49 appearances.
Back in Manchester United
The Frenchman rejoined Manchester United for a fee of £90m. It broke the transfer record held by Real Madrid. His United debut came in a 2-0 win against Southampton.
Although many considered his first season was not up to his required standards, Pogba proved to be a key figure in Manchester United winning the Carabao Cup and the Europa League. He had 51 appearances and made 15 goal contributions in his first season.
Pogba got recognized as the player of the tournament of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League. He started the 2017/18 season magnificently. Within four games, he scored 2 goals and made 3 assists. However, he got injured in the Champions League game against FC Basel and was out for three months.
He returned in the Premier League match against Newcastle. He was instrumental in that game as he scored and assisted in United's 4-1 win. He also provided 2 magnificent assists in a 3-1 win over Arsenal.
In January, Pogba was magnificent. He created 2 assists, each against Everton and Stoke City. However, the transfer of Alexis Sanchez created instability within his game. As a result, United was knocked out of the Champions League by Seville.
Pogba delivered a masterful performance against Manchester City which helped United come back from 2 goals down to beat their rivals. He gave another outstanding performance against Tottenham in the FA Cup as he assisted Alexis Sanchez's equalizer in the 2-1 win.
However, Manchester United could not land any trophy; they finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League and lost the FA Cup final against Chelsea.
The 2018/19 season started with tensions between the manager Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba. Before United's League Cup game against Derby, there was footage from the AON Training Complex in which Pogba completely ignored Mourinho's instructions. As a result, Mourinho took the captain's armband from Pogba and his performances gradually declined as Mourinho started excluding him from the squad.
Mourinho's sacking changed the fortunes of Pogba. Under the new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Pogba became important to the team. Within three months, he scored 11 goals and made 8 assists. However, United was unable to get a place in the Champions League and finished 6th.
In the first game of the 2019/20 season, Pogba gave 2 assists in a 4-0 win over Chelsea. However, He got an ankle injury at the start of September, which kept him out until July 2020. He scored the only goal of his 2019/20 season against Aston Villa.
After the signings of Bruno Fernandes and Donny Van de Beek, Pogba's chances in the lineup became less. He tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2020. Consequently, his performances declined as he gave away penalties against Tottenham and Arsenal. United lost both games.
Pogba is a complete package. He is usually a player who can do different kind of jobs in the middle. However, he plays best in a 3-man midfield.
In Juventus, Antonio Conte created a 3-man midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Paul Pogba. Pirlo and Vidal were given the responsibility to control the game. It allowed Pogba to play free. He used to come in from the left and deliver crosses on the back post.
Allegri did the same by giving the defensive responsibilities to Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio. It allowed Pogba to dictate the game and get into the final third.
At Manchester United, he has been inconsistent. However, he has shown brilliance in a 3-man midfield. He took the advanced role with Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic, occupying the defensive responsibilities. It resulted in the best season for Pogba in the 2018/19 season, in which he scored 16 goals and created 11 assists.
© 2020 Muhammad Yaqoob