Paul Pogba has been told to do his talking on the pitch — and not in the newspapers.
Emmanuel Petit, who won the World Cup and European Championships with France in 1998 and 2000, is a big fan of the Manchester United player, but feels it’s time he delivered on his potential.
Pogba, 25, was signed by United for €105m from Juventus two years ago, but has failed to hit the heights expected — by him, and by the club and its fans.
Last season he made just 27 Premier League appearances, and scored just six goals, as United ended the season without silverware. He has also failed to nail down a starting place in Didier Deschamps’ France team, despite saying he wanted to be seen as a leader.
Petit, in Dublin for Paddy Power, believes the biggest obstacle is in the player’s mind, not his boots.
“He kept on saying he wanted to be the leader of the team, fair enough, but I think before saying that in the newspaper, you should be saying that on the pitch,” said Petit.
“I’m a big fan of Pogba. We all agree that he has huge potential. But there is something missing with him and I think it is a mentality. We have seen it a few times with Manchester United this season when Jose Mourinho has attempted to push him to his limits.
“For example, the game against Manchester City, when they were losing 2-0 but won 3-2. He had been criticised for weeks beforehand but he ended up having a very, very good game. He was the best player on the pitch.
“But this is typical of Paul. He knows he has great potential but sometimes he needs a kick in the ass. It is like he has to be against the wall all the time to show his potential. I expect a reaction from him because he is no longer in the comfort zone. He must show now he is the leader of the team.
“He said he wanted to be the Ballon D’or winner, and be a leader. It’s like I said before. Don’t talk. Do things.”
Petit watched as Pogba was benched by United and France, and believes the competition can drive him to produce his best.
“He had troubles too with the national team because new players arrived there too. He had a good run under Didier Deschamps but he has only started once in the last seven games. Corentin Tolisso, for example, who did very well against Ireland, has been in good form for France.
“So the gap that was quite large between Pogba and the rest of the midfield players is not so big any more.”
While Pogba has dreams of becoming France’s new Zidane, Petit was full of praise for the original — who walked out on Real Madrid after winning a third Champions League title in a row.
Zizou and Petit were teammates in the greatest French team of all, and he believes his former colleague is made of special stuff.
“I think we are surprised at what he has done as a manager with Madrid, it’s amazing, but it’s exactly the way he was on the pitch when he was a player,” said Petit.
“He does things that human beings cannot do. Sometimes I have the feeling this guy is blessed by God. Everything he touches is gold. You cannot explain that. Why always him?
“It is simple — he has the charisma. He’s got knowledge. He’s got intelligence. I always said that if you want to be a great manager it doesn’t matter how many badges you have, how good you were at school. Personality and charisma is something you cannot earn. It is
Petit believes the France job will be Zidane’s to turn down if things go badly for Deschamps in Russia this summer. But he has so much faith in Zizou that he wouldn’t be surprised if he took Emmanuel Macron’s job too.
“I think Deschamps’ done a good job since he took over and he knows the expectation is coming for this World Cup, he knows bad things will happen if he doesn’t rise to the expectation,” said Petit.
“He knows. He’s not stupid. He knows that if things don’t go the way he wants I think he is going to be in trouble straight after the World Cup.
“The French people are putting pressure on too, they love Zidane — you have no idea how people love him in France. Even the French president said something about him. It’s like if he presented himself at the next presidential election it could be something very interesting.”
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