Paul Pogba, who has completed his move back to Manchester United from Juventus, has long been destined for big things; UEFA.com remembers how he came to prominence.
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With Paul Pogba having finally completed his move back to Manchester United, the club he left for Juventus in July 2012, UEFA.com remembers the France midfielder's early days.
2010 UEFA European Under-17 Championship
Pogba was only included in the France squad for the first time three months before the 2010 U17 EURO finals but quickly became a key figure. He created the goal in Les Bleus' opening defeat by Spain, 2-1, and then scored the winner against Portugal on matchday two. An alert free-kick set up another goal versus Switzerland before Pogba was on target against England in the last four, France losing 2-1.
Tom Kell, UEFA.com reporter at the tournament
This was the first youth tournament I covered for UEFA.com and Pogba one of the first players I spoke to. His sheer size leaped out at me straight away and I recall that his stature alone made him an influential performer on the field. He was not quite the talismanic figure he is today, but there were more than enough touches of excellence to suggest he was destined to be a serious player.
He said ...
It's always very good to get back with the French national team. To see all the players, I enjoy it, especially when we win. We always speak together, joking, kidding, maybe seven in one room speaking and playing. It's a very good group, we are very happy in the team.
2016 retrospective: It's a great memory, playing in that EURO against England, Spain, some big nations. It was a good experience for a young player. We lost, but I learned a lot. It helped me grow. It was always a dream of mine to wear that shirt and to play for my country, for the French national team.
They said ...
Paul Pogba is a very good player, but when he arrived in Liechtenstein he was not ready, physically and especially mentally. When he arrived he was not a player for the team, but we found a good solution. [Against Portugal] he did what I expect from him. It was his best game for a year.
Guy Ferrier, France coach
2012 UEFA European U19 Championship
France captain at the 2012 U19 finals in Estonia, Pogba began the tournament with a penalty in a 3-0 win against Serbia and was a central figure in Les Bleuets reaching the semi-finals with a game to spare. He had a hand in the first goal and scored the third in a gripping 3-3 draw with holders Spain in the last four, also converting France's opening penalty in the shoot-out – but France went out 4-2 on spot kicks.
Andrew Haslam, UEFA.com reporter at the tournament
Pogba's move from Manchester United to Juventus on the eve of the tournament had already brought him into the spotlight and there was little doubt who was the star of the show for France. Several of his team-mates from Estonia have also gone on to establish themselves at the top level, but everything revolved around Pogba – who was already sporting one of his distinctive hairstyles.
He said ...
We trust in [everybody], because we know this is a squad where anybody can replace anybody. We are a solid bunch and there is no such thing as first and second-string players in this group.
We have a great time together and when we are not playing a match or in training, we all hang out and that helps us bond even more. There's a beautiful park near the hotel where we go for walks. It's a very relaxed atmosphere, ideal for the tournament.
They said ...
We talk a lot, he's one of my leaders in the group. If I have a message to convey, or want to know something about a player who doesn't seem quite right, I go through Paul. He has a very important role, in more than one sense. He's always at the centre of things in the squad. He's a happy guy, very cheerful every day. His biggest flaw is that he rarely has his watch with him, his mobile phone is always off, or he's changed his number again.
Pierre Mankowski, France coach
2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup
Pogba proved an able captain in Turkey, inspiring a side including Kurt Zouma, Samuel Umtiti and Geoffrey Kondogbia to the trophy. Pogba played in all but one of France's fixtures, scored in the quarter-final win against Uzbekistan and found the net with the opening kick of the shoot-out triumph over Uruguay in the final. Small wonder he won the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.
He said ...
I felt really focused. It goes without saying that you need to be at your best in World Cup finals, especially as a lot was expected of us, especially me. Right from the start, I was determined to do well and I'm sure that was obvious from my first few touches. And I was rewarded with the U-20 World Cup trophy and [the] individual award.
The more matches you play, the more you start to understand the game and make the right decisions. That's how you can tell a great player from a good player, like Xavi, Andrés Inistea, Abou Diaby and Yaya Touré. I know I still have a lot of work to do. But right now, I'm just happy to have won the Golden Ball award and the U-20 World Cup.
They said ...
The very presence of the France captain out on the pitch was enough to command opponents' respect. Pogba's attributes – from his intimidating physique, fearless tackling, tireless running and the ability to read and determine the pace of the game – made the 20-year-old the team's undisputed leader. Furthermore, the Juventus midfielder was crucial to the morale of coach Pierre Mankowski's side, geeing his team-mates up on countless occasions when their heads dropped.