It might have been a gruelling season at club level with Manchester United but that doesn’t appear to have slowed Paul Pogba down as he approaches the start of the European Championship.
Pogba shone as France lifted the World Cup in Russia three years ago, while this summer he and his countrymen have extra incentive to conquer Europe following their defeat by Portugal on home soil in the 2016 final.
On paper there is no stronger team than France at the upcoming tournament, with Didier Deschamps’ side not only boosted by the return of Karim Benzema upfront but the advantage of midfield duo N’Golo Kante and Pogba both being in red-hot form.
For all the stars in the Les Blues squad it speaks wonders of Pogba that he was the one who stole the show in their final warm-up match before Euro 2020, running the show in a comfortable 3-0 victory against Bulgaria on Tuesday night.
The 28-year-old pulled the strings in midfield, acting as the conductor for an orchestra which was playing the sweetest tune with defence-piercing passes and a notable physical presence alongside the slight Kante.
It was another demonstration of the belief that Pogba plays far better for his national side – this summer might well reinforce that view if France go all the way.
“He was always behind me, never gave me gifts, and was always straightforward. He helped me become this leader in the France team, he gave me that confidence. I’m very grateful. I try to give everything back on the pitch.”
While Deschamps certainly deserves credit, so too does Kante, the midfield anchor whose world-class defensive ability alleviates pressure on Pogba and gives him freedom in an attacking capacity.
It might seem glaringly obvious, but if United want the best Pogba at club level then they too need a top-end anchor in midfield to balance their attacking flair.
A move for Kante is not on the table, but a player like Wilfred Ndidi or Declan Rice could well be the missing piece required to complete the United midfield three and get the most consistent output from the club-record signing.
With only a year left on his deal at the club is it clear United will need to pull the rabbit out of the hat if they are to convince Pogba to extend his stay, not only protecting his transfer valuation, but by convincing him to see out the prime of his career at Old Trafford.
No matter what happens in regards to the Frenchman’s own future at the club it seems quite clear a defensive midfielder is needed if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ever going to match rivals City and Chelsea over the course of an entire season.
Signing one this summer could also give them the bonus of tempting Pogba to stay.