x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Champions League: Pogba can live up to expectations with starring role for Juventus

The former Manchester United youngster will have the chance to prove he is worth the hype that followed his controversial move in the summer.

French midfielder Paul Pogba in action for Juventus.
French midfielder Paul Pogba in action for Juventus.

Juventus would like to be lining up at full strength tonight in Donetsk, their Champions League progress at stake. They understand that the point they require, even against a Shakhtar already guaranteed a place in the last 16, will be hard earned.

Antonio Conte, the coach, will have close to a full complement available when he names the XI but will miss the dynamism of Claudio Marchisio, excellent in the 3-0 win over Torino at the weekend but suspended in Ukraine.

Stepping forward, in all likelihood, in Marchisio's place will be a 19-year-old Frenchman making his first start in European competition, a man around whom great expectations have swirled since he was 15.

Paul Pogba joined Juventus in the summer from Manchester United, a move United had been reluctant to see take place but one which Pogba and his advisers pushed for.

They preferred the terms offered by the Serie A champions to those presented by United, who had recruited him at 16, rather controversially, from French the club Le Havre.

Pogba let his United contract run out, knowing he would be in demand elsewhere, and the more Pogba performs for Juventus, the stronger the notion grows that the English club might have been wise to have more effectively encouraged Pogba to stay.

Though Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, spoke highly of the tall, strong, self-assured midfielder's potential, Pogba started no senior matches in English football. Once he had joined Juve, he quickly saw his career progressing more rapidly, even with players as distinguished as Andrea Pirlo, Marchisio and the outstanding Arturo Vidal occupying the central midfield roles.

"I have been really impressed with him," Gianluigi Buffon, the Juventus captain, said early in the campaign.

A forceful volleyed goal in the 2-0 win over Napoli, and another in only his second start for Juventus, against Bologna, endorsed positive early impressions. Left out of a squad last month because he had turned up late for practice reminded Pogba that Juve will demand he respects their rules.

"I came here because Conte told me I would get games," Pogba said. Word is he also received advice from his compatriot, the former Juventus midfielder Patrick Vieira, to whom he has been likened for his playing style: rangy and powerful.

Vieira apparently counselled that Turin would be a suitable place to grow as a footballer. Vieira's current job, of course, is in an off-the-field role related to strategy for United's rivals, Manchester City.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE