“Le Zebre”

“Le Zebre”.

He walks tall in Black and White, cutting through the planes and then onto the riverside.

The air and grace of Le Zebre.

Paul Pogba for me is one of the greatest Football Players alive and playing the game. My first vison of seeing this ability was him wearing the Black and White of Le Zebre for the Italian Giants Juventus.

I can still see the run as he tore down the left flank on a night in Turin, playing the role of “Mezzala” a Midfield position famous in Italy, the drift from centre to wide.

Skill, Artistry and End Product.

Patrick Viera once quoted “But he’s much more gifted on the ball than I was, and he will also score a lot more goals than me”.

I watched on in Turin and believed him too.

If we rewind briefly, we are continually reminded of his time at Manchester United in the youth stages of his career, I can vividly remember him being substituted on late in the game and simply considered him to be another youth starlet in a long line of hopefuls that Sir Alex Ferguson had been flexing.

I was wrong, and so it would seem was Ferguson.

Cue the Free Transfer and the quiet exit from the UK into the caring and nurturing arms of Antonio Conte at Zebre…

Time passes and Juventus had just entered a mind-boggling supremacy that has lasted up until present day, it being the 2012/13 season. The previous season had been the first “Legitimate” lifting of the Coppa Campioni d’italia and gleaming decoration of the Scudetto since the “Calciopoli” scandal in 2003.

Conte’s new reign and littering of International superstars like; Pirlo; Buffon; Vidal; Del Piero were beginning to purr and rev their engines, just in time for the arrival of the youthful Pogba or Le Zebre.

Pirlo an influential and glorified World Cup Winner quoted “I will always remember the first day he trained at Juventus. He was only young, but we could see he was special”.

…And special he was, he shone bright, gleamed even on a stage that matched his grandioso style of play. He dominated in a midfield three including himself, Pirlo, and Vidal.

As we know with dominance and a quick rise onto a world stage, comes the quick harsh frankness of the football critique. Believe me it comes from all angles in this days multi-faceted social media outpouring.

A quick glance at Twitter will give you all you need to know about Armchair Management and Cheap Journalism.

However, Paul Pogba’s beautiful rise and education at Juventus including the masterminded intelligence of Antonio Conte gifted Pogba the belief and courage to progress his form and talents into the upcoming World Cup.

Brazil 2014.

A samba beat delivered Pogba onto the World Stage in Brazil 2014. France housed the usual household names and carried Pogba into a position that allowed him to become “Best Young Player”. His performances summed up with a delightful assessment from Pierre Mankowski the French under 20’s coach “TECHNIQUE, POWER, FINESSE, VISION, MENTAL STRENGTH…HE HAS EVERYTHING”. France were eventually eliminated at the Quarter-Final stages in Rio De Janeiro by Germany, however for Pogba this was just the very beginning.

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Manchester United came calling in a bid the “I Bianconeri” could not refuse, in an excess of 100 Million Euros. Our Hero heeded the call and what followed was an assessment and magnification of performance like no other.

Pogba became the scapegoat, the reason, the issue, and the problem.

Becoming a World Cup Winner in Russia 2018 did little to stem the tide of blood thirsty reporters.

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January 2021, London.

A windy, rainy night in West London brings us up to speed with present day. I watch on as Pogba picks up the ball in a wide area, swivels, turns in an impossibly congested area, steers towards goal and unleashes an arrowed effort that sails into the far, far left-hand corner of the Fulham net.

He has returned.

Coincidentally, Manchester United now don a Black and White “Zebra” Jersey, distinctly similar to that of Juventus from those Halcyon days when I first encountered the youthful charge and sprint of “Le Zebre”. I recollected a spritely Antonio Conte instructing the young protégée with vigour and the light heartedness of a willing Father on a Sunday morning on the Hackney Marshes. The World at his feet.

The return of Paul Pogba?

I for one, Certainly think so.

Written by Alex Howard for MONDE-SPORTIF.

Follow us on TWITTER @mondesportifLDN

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