When Paul Pogba joined Juventus at the start of the season, not many would have anticipated just how well he would fit into the Italian Champion’s side.
At just 18 years old, the youngster signed a pre-contract with The Old Lady around March 2012-much to Sir Alex Ferguson’s disappointment. Having failed to convince the French teenager to extend his contract, Manchester United had to settle for some training compensation from FIFA, having brought him to English football from Le Harve in 2009.
Ferguson has always rated the youngster, speaking highly of him in the press and his desire to keep him at Old Trafford perhaps shows just how much potential the boy has. Although only seven appearances for United, there did seem to be something special there. With a great physique, power and strength, and striking an imposing figure in the midfield, the 20 year old seemed to have all the traits to become a strong midfielder-comfortable both going forward and defending.
This has been backed up by his impressive start to life in Serie A, although not always a stick-on for a start, with his first goals already scored in the first half of the season against Napoli, and the match winning performance and goal against Bologna where without the 19 year old free transfer, Juventus looked shabby. Two spectacular goals against Udinese in a 4-0 thrashing in January this year also helped the youngster stand out.
Of course, after performances like these, the usual press frenzy followed in Italy, claiming he is the next Patrick Viera and that he could be the future of the Juventus midfield. Managing to shine in a midfield which has talents such as Andrea Pirlo-who is still, easily, one of the best passers and creators in the Italian game, and the dogged and determined Claudio Marchisio who is Juventus through and through, is a great achievement so early on in his Juve career. As well as Arturo Vidal, of course.
Against Nordsjaelland in the Champion’s League Group E clash back in November, Pogba replaced Vidal to great cheers from the Juventus crowd. Such popularity can only spur the youngster on, surely, and if performances continue to be as encouraging and positive as they have been, then who knows? 2013 also saw Pogba made his debut for the French National side in a World Cup Qualifier against Georgia, playing the full 90 minutes and looking extremely comfortable and at home in the French Jersey.
As a result of this defining season in Italy, the transfer rumours we are all accustomed to have arisen, with talk of interest from England to the sum of £17m. This interest has been quashed by the Frenchman, claiming his future lies in Turin with the Old Lady. Not too bad for a player deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester United. Although a breakthrough season for Pogba, his career can still be steered in many a direction.
Of course, Pogba can maintain this form and reach the potential he is showing, and lead Juventus to dominate Italian football and Europe, ridding the Italian giants of the match-fixing scandal that has contaminated their name. Or, get them to a level of dominance in Italy, then sign for Real Madrid or Barcelona in an outrageously lucrative deal, all this whilst dragging France back to becoming a major threat in world football again and stamping his name on the game forever as one of the all-time greatest midfielders ever to have graced the game, being mentioned in the same breaths as Zinedine Zidane, Andres Iniesta and the likes. Or, he could be a decent player, then fade gradually into obscurity and insignificance, to be selected for type-specific games and make little or no impact on them, then be loaned out in a classic Italian Football style to some newly-promoted side and become a bit of a favourite for them, ultimately resulting in a free transfer to said club on a three to five-year deal, only to see out half of it then sign for a mid-table team who are punching above their weight. This seems unlikely, but we have seen it before with incredibly gifted players making their mark in only one or two seasons. Especially in Italy.
Anything can happen, but it appears Pogba is on course to be a truly class act at Juventus. Deciding to leave Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson cannot be an easy decision for a young footballer, but on this occasion it seems like a very astute move. If the performances and popularity can last, then both France and Juventus could well have a world class midfielder on their hands.