Written for mufclatest.com
Paul Pogba possesses unquestionable ability to add to his great potential. The monumental Frenchman seems to have been around a while but is still only 23 years of age, and frequent comparisons to renowned fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane add to his already enormous image. But, is Pogba capable of matching the achievements of the great Zizou? Or does his ability fall below the current Real Madrid manager’s limit?
Let’s begin with their preferred positions on the field. Whereas Zidane was primarily classed as an attacking midfielder, Pogba is a central midfielder who is plotted in both defensive and attacking positions by his club and national team manager. Current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has placed Pogba as one of the two holding midfielders in his system and at other times deployed Pogba as the number 10. However, in all truth, asking Pogba to focus on the defensive duty of a midfielder limits his main talents, whilst at number 10 there is insufficient space for Pogba to make a trademark burst through the pitch. Therefore, it is best for him to be on the left side of a midfield three so that one of his partners is covering for him deeper on the field and another of his teammates is joining in with him on the attack, as shown by Carrick and Herrera’s roles in the reds midfield trio. Pogba’s ability as the left-sided central midfielder is further enhanced when the stats from his final season during his Juventus spell, obtained from WhoScored, show that Pogba claimed eight goals and a league-high 12 assists for that particular season in that position.
When it comes to playing style, the differences in physical build contribute to a range of skills between them. Zidane graced the field with his elegant touch and masterful dribbles while Pogba, also an exceptional dribbler, has his own style of towering and powering past opponents. For a tall and slender midfielder, though, Pogba has major technical attributes to his game.
On international duty, the duo had both made their debut at the age of 20. Although, Pogba has a long way to match Zidane’s success. Zizou, at the age of 22, appeared in his first tournament for France in the 1996 Euros, held in England. Zidane, though, wasn’t really their established star by this event and despite scoring in the penalty shootouts for the quarter and semi-finals; he couldn’t make a greater impact as France left the tournament at the semi-finals. The following major international tournaments, World Cup 1998 (held in France) and Euro 2000, were where Zidane stamped his name in the history books. Zizou dragged his team to the final on both occasions where his state was victorious. Current France international Pogba also was presented the chance to similarly lead his nation to glory when his first major international competition, Euro 2016 presented itself in France. Les Bleus reached the terminal stage of the tournament, but a defeat in extra-time left Portugal as the champions. Furthermore, 23-year-old Pogba failed to make a memorable impact like Zidane did and even though he scored in the quarter-final dismantling of Iceland, his position of a holding midfielder (as spoken of above) possibly restricted him as he was overshadowed by teammates Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann throughout the competition. Time will tell if he will be granted another opportunity like this.
On the other hand, in club football, Pogba will inevitably be given the time to match Zidane’s accomplishments. The legendary attacking midfielder won league titles in Italy, with Juventus, and Spain, with Real Madrid. Zidane also has a UEFA Champions League to his list of honours, and an iconic volley in the final of this competition means we can hardly forget. Nevertheless, Pogba, who broke the world record transfer fee like Zidane, already has a league triumph in Italy with Juventus to his name but more league titles and a European champions medal are still pending on Pogba’s list. With time on his side, can he be the one to take United back to the top of English and European football?
So, what is apparent is that even though the honours needed for Pogba to match Zidane seem difficult to overcome, United’s current number six has the advantage of time with him, as his career is yet to truly take off. Maybe one day we’ll speak of Pogba as one of the game’s greats but for now, he needs to focus on performing the best he can for Mourinho’s Manchester United.