Paul Pogba's journey has been an interesting one to follow in more ways than one. On the pitch, he's had to develop and modify his game. Can the same be said of his development off of the pitch as well? Judging based on the famous video of his locker room speech ahead of the 2018 World Cup final, one could say he is now a true leader.
He's no longer merely the "ambianceur," as he was in his early international years when he was in charge of selecting music, telling jokes, and making fun of his teammates. He was outgoing and upbeat, bringing a party atmosphere to national team camps and even organizing the winning cheers in the locker room after a win. He's a lot more nowadays.
An excellent example is when he stepped in at the last minute to defuse an altercation between Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud, who was furious at not getting enough ball in a friendly against Bulgaria, which irritated the PSG star. When questioned if the team was tense, Pogba said calmly, "No, the only strain is in the back and legs... maybe what was stated was conveyed incorrectly.", which speaks to the wisdom that he's acquiring as we continue to follow his development.
Didier Deschamps sends Pogba to chat with players one-on-one, whether to boost their confidence, rectify a mistake, or discuss tactics, as he did recently with Mbappe about his defensive responsibilities.
"I like to talk one-on-one with the boys. I like saying to the guys 'how are you feeling? If you don't think we should do it like this, let me know...' I try to make [my teammates] feel at ease so we can be better on the pitch. I want to get the best out of everyone," Pogba explained recently in an interview with French newspaper L'Equipe.
It is always the players and the staff who pass such leadership to a member of the squad, regardless of the level. Pogba was always going to be regarded as a leader by the rest of the team, but he had to accept the term and live up to it, both on and off the field.
"You saw how he evolved in this role, game after game, month after month, but he always had it in him," a source within the France camp tells ESPN. "Pogba was always a captain, in every age group. Even at Manchester United, he wore the armband under José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It is natural for him to be a leader and to be an excellent one as well."
Overall, France's performance against Hungary was disappointing, but Pogba's words helped the French stay focused as they clawed their way back into the game. "Don't be concerned. There's no need to be concerned. We're creating opportunities, and we'll take advantage of them. Let's keep going, will we? "While Deschamps sat in the dressing room at halftime, he told his troops.
Paul Pogba is quickly becoming a leading figure even in a dressing room like France which boasts some of the most accomplished footballers in the world like Varane, Kante, or Benzema for example. However, his importance even in a star-studded national team shows he still has a lot to offer to whichever club he might find himself playing for in the future.