Paul Pogba should have been remembered as one of the best talents football produced in recent memory. A mercurial talent who both dominated and entertained in equal measure. For his career to essentially end as it has shouldn’t rob fans of enjoying who Pogba was.

With Pogba’s career all but over, plenty of revisionist takes will be thrown about. Some will call him one of the sport’s biggest  what ifs while others rush to call him a bust.

Objectively, Pogba is much closer to the former than the latter. By 25, Pogba played a key role in France’s World Cup win. In addition to the victory in Russia, his performances at Juve ensured that his path to footballing immortality was on its way.

Photo: Getty

Moving to United brought Pogba to the forefront of the footballing world, not disrespect to Juve. However, this move destroyed  any chance for the Frenchman to develop into the player he was. No matter what he won or how he played, United’s failures became his.

This suspension is the finality of a  career that will forever be judged. Fairly or not, this punishment serves to put a terrible finish to a career.

When discussing his career, people like to put Pogba into two versions. The dominant Juve/France Pogba and the one who played with terrible United sides.

It’s strange to be so black or white about a player, but Pogba’s career arc invites it. His career started out by being signed by United to replace Scholes, only to be kicked out for the Englishman. After establishing himself as one of Europe’s best in Italy, he returned to bring United back.

No one could have imagined it at the time, but that move broke his career. His high price tag pushed fans to place all their hopes of a United resurgence on him.

Placing all that hope on any player not named Messi was a mistake. While his performances at United varied heavily, United failed to provide any sort of stability. No manager understood him as the pressure piled on him from all sides.

Photo: Alex Morton

This is the Pogba most people remember. The overpaid talent that failed to make United relevant again. 

Then there’s the Pogba that most have forgotten, the world beater. Juve fans will swear that Pogba’s 2015/16 season was worthy of a ballon d’or. To be fair, they’re not wrong, his performances resembled that of Platini.

Even at the international level, Deschamps understood him better than any United manager. Deschamps pushed Pogba to be only second to Modrić at the 2018 World Cup. That summer had fans dreaming that the old Pogba was back. 

Context always seems to be removed when discussing Pogba. He needs to be seen as the failure who is responsible for United’s floundering.

Watching Pogba at his peak was a treat. Imagine Jude Bellingham with the dominating presence of a Touré and the range of Modrić.

A silky smooth dribbler whose shots could rip the nets off their posts, Juve’s dominance was personified in him. He could take on a whole midfield with one or two moves before roping a pass across the pitch. There was very little doubt from the moment he debuted at Juve that he would become a star.

Oozing flair and class in equal measure, Pogba separated himself from his peers. Besides Neymar, no other wonderkid from the mid 2010s equaled him. By the end of the 2016 Euros, only Iniesta seemed above the Frenchman. 

There’s a cliche that watching certain players allows you to understand the whole game through them. Pogba was that type of player, the whole game was controlled by him at his peak.

Photo: Getty

In him, fans saw a maestro who read the game like his Juve teammate Pirlo, but played with the joy of a kid. Steph Curry is a good comparison for peak Pogba. A true master of the game who put smiles on the faces of fans. 

His feet wrote poetry that spoke both loudly and eloquently. When the ball ripped through the net, he put an exclamation point on the piece he had just written. When Pogba pinpoint a teammate only he could find, the words found homes in the hearts of those watching.

Pogba’s artistry persuaded fans that the next generational talent played in front of them. Some players fail because they refuse to elevate their game, but never Pogba.

This is why his career is a true what if, rather than the case of a bust. It’s also what makes this ending so bitter. Pogba’s career stalled out due to a singular move rather than the player being unable to translate his game.

An end to a player’s career should always be dictated by the player themselves. It’s a way to write the perfect ending to the story of their career. When they aren’t able to, everyone else becomes authors of their story.


Featured image: The Athletic

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