Paul Pogba: The Divisive Frenchman Who Continues to Prove His Critics Wrong Time & Time Again

Whether it be for his hairstyles, antics off the field, transfer stories, his agent...or his stellar performances on the pitch, Paul Pogba is never too far away from the headlines.

There are few quite like the Frenchman in world football. With the perfect blend of power and technical skill, Pogba has the ability to change a game singlehandedly.

Paul Pogba - Manchester United

Departing Manchester United in the summer of 2012 for Juventus, Pogba went on to get the first team minutes he was craving so desperately. It was in Turin where he went on to make a real name for himself, grabbing 34 goals and 40 assists in 170 appearances before his former club realised their mistake and looked to bring him home.

Letting him go for just £1.5m, United ended up forking out £89m for his services in the summer of 2016 - a world-record fee at the time.

Of course, with such a price tag came a great deal of expectation. During his career to date (especially since moving back to Old Trafford), the 27-year-old has been (somewhat tediously) criticised, with many choosing to label his lifestyle off the field as unprofessional and not what you'd expect from a player worth so much money.

His haircuts have proven to be the main issue...ridiculously. But apart from the reservations some have about where his heart lies and all the extras, the fact remains that Pogba is one of the most talented and complete players in world football, and indeed one of the very best box-to-box midfielders.

There are very few - if any - players who possess his height, strength, speed, vision, creativity and awareness. Combining all these attributes together, Pogba simply cannot be stopped when he's on his game.

The World Cup winner is equally capable of playing short, intricate passes with teammates in order to find space, as well as precisely pinging cross-field balls to send a player in behind. Perhaps what goes slightly unnoticed and what remains an under-appreciated part of Pogba's game, however, is his versatility.

While he may not enjoy doing his defensive duties, he is more than capable of operating in a number of different positions all very effectively. Having played at the base of the midfield in a defensive role, on the left of a midfield, in the centre of the park or as the main creator as well, Pogba's versatility and adaptability is a key skillset of his.

Pogba thrives as a box-to-box midfielder, but he is a very versatile player.

But it is when he is operating in a box-to-box midfield role which is when he is most lethal.

There are a number of performances to back this up, but Pogba's display against Chelsea in the first game of the 2019/20 season was perhaps the most outstanding in recent times. Playing as part of a midfield three, Pogba set up two goals to help United seal a 4-0 win.

Immediately after going 2-0 up, from the restart, he received the ball and spotted the run of Marcus Rashford. Without hesitating, he played a perfectly weighted chipped ball over the defence into Rashford's path, allowing him to run onto it and slot home. It was a beautiful pass, which very few players could have spotted let alone executed perfectly.

If the first assist was all about the vision, the second was about pace, power and composure. After winning the ball back by their own box, United broke quickly through Pogba, who played a clever one-two to get past his opponent. As he received the ball again, he drove towards the Blues goal at pace, all the while weighing up his options.

Recognising that he wouldn't be able to go all the way himself, he waited for Daniel James to make the run into the box before sliding him in to allow the Welshman to grab a debut goal.

Overall, while his display against Chelsea will be remembered for his exquisite assists, his overall work rate and ability to support both his defence and attack should also be highlighted.

It was vintage Pogba and the Blues hadn't a clue how to deal with him.

As for his eye for goal, his brace in the Manchester derby in April 2018 highlights just this. City were on course to be crowned Premier League champions that day as they went into the break against their rivals 2-0 up. But Pogba stepped up in the second period to lead United to an incredible 3-2 win.

He got them back into the game with a composed finish eight minutes into the second half. Starting the move, shielding the ball before laying it off to a teammate, he read the game impeccably to spot the space and make a late dart into the area - where he met a knockdown and tapped home. United's number six also showed the composure to wait for Ederson to go down before cooly slotting the ball into the bottom corner.

It took just two minutes for the Red Devils to find a shock equaliser, with Pogba once again starting and rounding off the move. Feeding the ball to Alexis Sanchez, he continued his run into the box, where he climbed to meet the Chilean's cross powerfully and headed the ball past Ederson.

Paul Pogba against Man City.

At international level, his recent exploits for his country speak for themselves. A crucial member of the France side that stormed to World Cup glory in 2018, Pogba went on to net in the final to help his nation overcome Croatia 4-2.

Having only recently turned 27, there is no doubting that the former Juventus man will be a key figure in the heart of a menacing France midfield for some time yet.

Can Pogba perhaps handle certain situations differently? Yes, he can.

But does that warrant the amount of criticism he gets? No, absolutely not.

The reality is that Pogba is who he is - the dancing, hairstyles and occasionally laid-back attitude is part of his character, and this should simply be respected and accepted. Pogba doesn't let his critics get the better of him, instead he lets his football speak for itself. Make no mistake about it, Pogba is one of the most complete and well-rounded footballers in world football and indeed, one of the very best box-to-box midfielders around.

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Source : 90min