Paul Pogba has cut a frustrating figure since making his then-record money move to Manchester United two summers ago.
The midfielder clearly has bags of talent and deserves his place among that echelon of world class talent, but too often he seems a passenger failing to exert his influence on the game, and you never know when he will turn it on. It doesn’t help that Jose Mourinho never fully worked out how best to employ the talent, with the player insisting on making driving runs to join the attack but the manager wanting him to form a more solid and complete midfield partnership with Nemanja Matic.
Where he often looks laboured and burdened for Manchester United, he looked unshackled and bounding for France at the World Cup. He wasn’t playing a markedly different position from the one he adopts to Manchester United, so why did he play at the tournament the way we all know he can and should regularly for his club?
Could it all be down to the diminutive and unassuming presence at his side?
In three years, N’Golo Kante has won the Premier League with Leicester City, then again with Chelsea, walked the PFA Player of the Year Award, clinched an FA Cup and now the World Cup. With such pedigree and playing so well alongside United’s star player in Russia, it makes you wonder why Manchester United didn’t try harder to sign him back in 2016 when Chelsea bought him for an incredible £32million.
After making the move to Stamford Bridge two years ago, the Frenchman spoke about how he was courted by the new Manchester United manager, but it was too little, too late.
He said: “It was amazing to have Mourinho call me, even though I’d been warned before how he would appeal to me.
“I listened to his arguments about why I should move to United. But at that time I was hesitant between staying at Leicester or leaving for Chelsea.
“My discussions with them were already well underway. But when I spoke, I had a good feeling with Conte.”
Seeing the midfield duo team up so harmoniously in Russia must have been particularly frustrating for The Special One, as this is surely what Pogba has missed at United. Even though Matic performs a similar role to Kante, he does not have the legs and the tenacity to cover the whole pitch seemingly at once which allows Pogba to drift and drive where he so pleases.
Had Mourinho got in there before his nemesis Conte and built a team around Kante and Pogba, perhaps the last two seasons would have told a very different story in the Premier League and we would have seen the very best of the once most expensive player in the world.