The day Euro 2016 kicked off, Paul Pogba’s youthful face featured on the front page of L’Equipe, flanked by pictures of France’s all-time greats Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane. They touted the fact that both Platini and Zidane were both at Juventus when they led France to major titles adding to the excitement surrounding Pogba.
A couple of weeks later and the general consensus has flipped; Pogba has shown only glimpses of his talent on the pitches of France, looking ordinary again in France’s 2-1 quarter-final win against Ireland.His performances prompted former England captain turned pundit Gary Lineker to tweet, “Is Pogba the world’s most over-rated player?”
It was a different story at the start of the year when Pogba, wearing a flashy, gold-flowered jacket, looked proud to feature in the Fifa’s World XI alongside players such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.Pogba was fresh from a scintillating season in which he had scored 10 goals to help Juventus win a domestic double and reach the Champions League final, earning him the right to be granted the number 10 shirt once graced by Platini.
“I have played with some great young players but Pogba is the best young player I have ever seen,” former Juventus and Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo said at the time.
Although highly successful at club level with four Serie A titles under his belt, he has rarely been entirely convincing for France since earning the first of his 35 caps in a 3-1 win over Georgia in March 2013, even if he was named the 2014 World Cup’s best young player.
“Paul, of course, can play better than that,” France coach Didier Deschamps said after substituting Pogba in his side’s opening 2-1 win over Romania at this tournament.
“I’m not going to be too hard on him but his potential is such that he can contribute more than he showed tonight.”It is not only Deschamps who is frustrated with Pogba, so are the French fans who have never had a chance to watch him at club level since he was only 16 when he left the renowned Le Havre academy for Manchester United before moving to Juventus in 2012.
Lineker’s comment suggested Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, was being greedy to ask for more than 100 million euros for his player, who is reportedly being courted by almost all major European clubs, including Manchester United and Real Madrid.With a quarter-final tie against Iceland approaching on Sunday, Pogba has little time left to stamp his authority on Euro 2016 the way Platini and Zidane did at the 1984 European Championship and 1998 World Cup respectively.
“I’m not worried,” said France goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris. “Great players often wait for important moments to show their class.”