Pogba: Ronaldo made me fall in love with football
Football is first and foremost a game, and Paul Pogba is someone who loves to play. He likes playing with his hairstyle, his clothes, his mannerisms and his friends – not to mention with the ball.
He also likes playing with his cell phone and joking with his mates as he calmly and unhurriedly waits for our interview. And though his lineage is Guinean, his movement and style – languid, nonchalant and musical – could pass for that of a Caribbean native.
However, Paul Pogba was born and raised in France. At just 16, so precocious was his talent that he was snapped up by Manchester United. After successfully completing his development there, he headed to Italy for a new challenge with Juventus. There he has enjoyed further success, just as he has done with every age category of the France national team.
In 2013 he was captain of Les Bleus when they won the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, where he also picked up the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament's outstanding performer. Just a year later he was voted Hyundai Best Young Player at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ after helping his side reach the quarter-finals, and was recently named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI for 2015.
It would be something of an understatement to say things have been happening quickly for Pogba, who will turn 23 on 15 March. “When you have lofty goals in your life or career, you need to be able to deal with a lot of responsibility,” he explained to FIFA.com, without mentioning his own rapidly ascending trajectory. “My dream is to have a great career, so if I want to achieve that I need to be able to adapt quickly.”
His impressive facility with languages is one thing that has helped his progression at club level, while with France his character and attitude have been his strongest assets. “I’m gradually acquiring experience and have the good fortune to be valued by Les Bleus. I give my all for the shirt and the country, so I have no problem accepting the responsibility that it entails and putting in the maximum effort.
Asked what his first wish will be when he blows out the candles today (15 March), he does not hesitate: “Winning the Scudetto with Juventus. Once that’s done, it would be a dream come true to win my first title with France.”
Role models The international title in question is, of course, this summer’s UEFA European Championship, which Les Bleus will be vying to win on home soil. The last time France staged a major tournament – the 1998 World Cup – they ended up winning it, making comparisons inevitable with this year’s event. Pogba was just five in 1998 but still has vivid memories of the Final. “We watched it on TV at home and I remember going out in our car afterwards to celebrate with friends and sound our horns.”
The crowning victory over Brazil by Zinedine Zidane and Co was to leave an indelible mark on the youngest member of the Pogba family. “Ronaldo is my footballing role model and the player that made me fall in love with football. I was enthralled by him as I used to play up front when I was younger. His technique, pace and eye for goal, as well as the variety of his play, was something I liked and admired,” said the Frenchman.
“And of course Zidane too!” he added quickly. “He’s a French icon and someone who made a real impression on us. We won’t forget him. Everyone respects and admires him and we all want to emulate what he’s achieved in his career.”
In this regard, Pogba has taken the first step by playing for the same team as the legendary Frenchman in Italy. Now, he is aiming to claim his first senior team honours at the upcoming EURO. “I’m confident that with this generation of players we can bring back the good times for French football. We have a fine squad and a very savvy coach who will know how to help us achieve our goals.”
Family tiesPogba has another, more heartfelt footballing objective. It is also one that is shared by his older twin brothers Mathias and Florentin, as the latter explained. “It’s something that’s just there, you know, in the back of our minds, and we talk about it occasionally. It’s a dream we have for the three of us to share the same pitch, regardless of what game it is. But we know it will be difficult to fulfil.”
Difficult, though not impossible, as both are professional players – Mathias with Scottish side Partick Thistle and Florentin with France’s Saint-Etienne – and both have opted to represent Guinea at international level.
“My brothers are the people who advise me best on football. Every time I progress and take a step forward, I always say it’s thanks to them and all my team-mates,” said the Juve man.
Can he envisage a meeting of Guinea and France and all three Pogbas in action at once? That would surely test the loyalties of the family matriarch Yeo, who proudly walked her son down the red carpet at January’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.
One thing is for sure, Paul Pogba will continue to play, before, during and after every game, and with a touch of #pogbdance and #pogboom. Unfamiliar with the terms? Then check out the player’s social media presence and enjoy them for yourself.