Winning the World Cup is the only way Paul Pogba can silence the France boo boys

Aditya Devavrat 21:35 02/06/2018
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Getting booed off by your own fans is one of the most humiliating experiences for any sportsperson.

Paul Pogba was subjected to the treatment on Friday, getting jeered by France fans after misplacing a pass in in his side’s 3-1 win over Italy in Nice, and then again when he was substituted.

There was little reason for the booing – the Manchester United star was a little off his best, but also sprayed raking passes about with customary aplomb, and drove forward with the ball in trademark fashion. On occasion he would misplace a pass or try something over-ambitious, without it coming off.

In short, it was another typical United-era Pogba display. Fans at Old Trafford, who have seen Pogba’s inconsistency firsthand for two seasons, have yet to give their midfielder such treatment.

Pogba’s outsized personality makes it easy to forget that he’s still 25, at an age where he should be considered a developing talent rather than the finished product. But that talent, and his star power, come with the pressure of expectation.

And with France, that pressure is compounded. The fans know they have an incredible collection of talent – one that, on paper, is among the favourites for the World Cup trophy this summer. It’s an unfair burden, because this side is not as battle-tested as holders Germany and perennial contenders Brazil, or as pedigreed as Spain. Yet the collection of players is so good that losing the final of Euro 2016, at home, was seen as underachievement.

Rightly or wrongly, Pogba is viewed as the leader of this generation. Antoine Griezmann, two years his senior, doesn’t face the same scrutiny, despite being as flashy and as talented. And the rest of France’s young brigade – Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir – haven’t made as big a name for themselves.

So the burden of winning football’s biggest prize falls on the shoulders of a player whose honour roll consists of winning four Serie A titles as part of a dominant Juventus side, and a handful of cup triumphs in competitions other than Europe’s premier trophy, the Champions League.

And the only way he can silence the boo boys is to come back home from Russia this summer with the Jules Rimet Trophy in hand.

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