Behind every athlete, there’s a story of self-improvement, effort, and overcoming adversity. Reaching the highest level requires a lot of commitment, hard work, talent, and sometimes a bit of luck —regardless of the sport. In most cases, they also need to have a lot of passion for what they do.
Paul Pogba is one of those who can take pride in their path to stardom. The France international has tasted the ultimate glory with the national team, played for the biggest clubs in Europe, and has made millions of admirers around the world. When we talk about Pogba, we’re talking about someone who was destined to succeed as a footballer. Let’s look at the story behind the French superstar.
For those who need context, Paul Labile Pogba (better known as Paul Pogba) is a world-renowned French professional footballer widely regarded as one of the best midfielders on Earth. He is currently playing for Juventus after making a sensational return to the Serie A side this summer.
Pogba, 29, helped France win the 2018 World Cup final in Russia. Between his salaries, bonuses, endorsements and brand sponsorships, Pogba has an estimated net worth of €76.8 million ($78.5m).
He is sponsored by Adidas, after turning down a lucrative offer from Nike. In August 2016, Pogba became the then most expensive player in history when Manchester United acquired him for $115.50 million (PSG would later overtake the Red Devils by signing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe Lottin for world record fees). He has achieved multiple successes with Juventus, where he established himself as one of the best players in world soccer.
Born in the eastern suburbs of Paris, Paul Pogba is the youngest of three children whose life would inevitably be attached to soccer. His elder brothers, Florentin and Mathias (who are twins), were born in Guinea three years earlier, living with their mother Yeo Moriba before moving to France, where their father Fassou Antoine was already settled.
Paul was born only a few months after her mother joined her husband in France, therefore having a different nationality than the rest of his family. His early life was not easy, though, as Paul didn’t get to see their parents living together for long.
When he was only two, his parents broke up. Therefore, Yeo Moriba raised the kids mostly on her own. Paul spent his childhood living with her mother and two brothers on the Renardiere housing estate in Roissy-en-Brie, an eastern suburb of Paris. Though the neighborhood was not too conflictive, it was vulnerable to violent gangs that encouraged the use of drugs.
Yeo Moriba, however, made sure her children stayed away from any of the gangs’ activities. That may explain why she also supported their children’s desire to play soccer, as they saw it not only as a hobby, but also as an opportunity to make it for a living in the future.
She wanted them to have a proper education, but playing soccer was also a much healthier alternative to hanging out with the gangs. Fortunately, Yeo didn’t battle against their dreams to become professional football players.
Because of the separation, Paul’s relationship with his father was reportedly not as bondy as with his mother. Fassou Antoine didn’t know of their children’s passion at first, but he would later encourage the Pogba brothers to pursue their dreams in soccer.
A frustrated footballer, Fassou Antoine wanted his children to make it, something he was unable to do in the past. He regretted abandoning his dreams when he was younger, so he didn’t want his kids to make the same mistake he did in his life. Though the three brothers were given formal education early in their lives, Paul would realize from the very beginning what he wanted for his life.
Little Paul would fall in love with soccer while playing with his peers at school. That would mark him forever. Football became his passion early in his life. Therefore, the younger brother would receive homeschooling in order to continue pursuing a football career without giving up his education.
Paul would kick off his career at six, joining US Roissy-En-Brie. He would stay in the academy for the next seven years before taking the first big step in his road to the elite level.
His performances earned him a trial with US Torcy, which he successfully passed. Pogba immediately started to captain the U13s and, though he wasn’t a striker, he quickly became the top goalscorer. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long before an even bigger club knocked on his door.
While his elder brothers Florentin and Mathias joined Spanish club Celta de Vigo, Paul caught the eye of Le Havre after only one year at US Torcy. Just like he did at his previous club, Paul Pogba would quickly prove them right. Wearing the armband in his second season at the club, he led Le Havre U16s to a deep run in the domestic tournament. His talent was starting to be noticed throughout the country, which is why Pogba was called up to the U16 France national team.
From then on, there was no turning back. Pogba would continue to captain the youth national teams, making his way up to the higher levels. Needless to say, people started to spread the word that Le Havre had one of the most promising young players in French football. Consequently, the biggest football teams in Europe started to set their sights on Paul Pogba.
His amazing rise drew interest from Juventus and Manchester United, but it was the latter football club that ultimately acquired his services. Though his departure to the Red Devils on July 31, 2009 sparked a legal battle between his former club and his current employers, Pogba’s move to Old Trafford was ultimately approved on October 7, 2009. Pogba adapted quickly to his new club, helping Man United’s U18s retain the league title. That would let him make higher levels of their program.
Shortly after, Pogba would meet his mentor Paul Scholes when he got promoted to the reserve team. The former midfielder taught Pogba everything he knew about the position to help him improve his game. It wasn’t long before he impressed the longtime Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who felt it was time for Pogba to be part of the senior squad. Pogba made his Premier League debut on Jan. 31, 2012, coming on in the 72nd minute against Stoke City.
However, things wouldn’t go according to plan. In Ferguson’s eyes, Pogba was talented enough to be part of the first team, but he was not ready to start yet. Therefore, the French midfielder often came off the bench in the second half, though Pogba expected to take part from the beginning. He would later reveal that Ferguson told him he was still too young and there were other youngsters to promote.
According to Pogba, the final straw came in a game when Sir Alex Ferguson chose full-back Rafael over him to play in the middle of the park. The feud between them resulted in Pogba training on his own and eventually deciding not to renew his contract, which expired in the summer of 2012. Ferguson reportedly tried to make amends before he walked out for free, but the damage was already done.
After talking with his family about everything that happened with the renowned football coach, Pogba decided not to stay at Manchester United. Instead, a new adventure awaited him in Italy. He may not have known it by then, but that turned out to be the best decision in his career.
Pogba’s career would finally take off when he made the switch to Juventus in 2012. In Turin, he became one of the hottest prospects in world soccer winning four Serie A titles. Additionally, he led the club to the 2014 UEFA Europa League semi-finals and the 2015 UEFA Champions League final.
With the Old Lady, he found the playing time he needed to prove what he was capable of. His fantastic first season in Turin earned him the 2013 Golden Boy award, given to the best young player of the year in Europe. A year later, Pogba became the youngest player to contend for the Ballon d’Or. With veteran players such as Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal by his side, Pogba was able to bring out his best.
Paul the Octopus, as he has been nicknamed, not only established himself in the starting eleven of a European giant such as Juve, but he also won a spot in the French national team in the meantime.
Pogba became the only player that won both the FIFA World Cup and the U-20 FIFA World Cup. Pogba also reached the Euro 2016 final with the France national team.
He never played in the Ligue 1, yet his history with the national team program and achievements with the senior squad make him a beloved player in his country.
Having played for most of the youth national teams throughout his life, Pogba eventually received an invitation to train with the senior squad in Clairefontaine—and he was up to the challenge. Pogba would later make an impression in the 2014 World Cup, being named the best young player of the tournament.
At the club level, he helped Juventus extend their supremacy in the Italian top-flight. During his time with the Italian club, Pogba became a world-renowned superstar, with millions of fans imitating his unique hairstyles, goal celebrations, and purchasing his No. 6 shirt. By then, Pogba revealed he wanted to be a soccer legend like Pele or Diego Maradona. Therefore, he felt it was time to take his game to the next level, and that wouldn’t be in Italy.
With 177 appearances and 34 goals under his belt throughout four memorable years, Pogboom decided to move on to chase a new challenge in his career. Surprisingly, he decided to go back to Manchester United, whom he had left for nothing only four years earlier, for a mind-blowing fee plus add-ons. That made Pogba the then most expensive footballer in history. He was later overtaken by other players, but he remains the biggest signing Manchester United have ever made.
In those four years in which they stayed apart from each other, many things had changed both for Pogba and the Red Devils. While the French player was not a young prospect anymore, United were still facing reconstruction after the departure of Ferguson. By then, Pogba had made a name for himself. Everyone knew what he could bring to the club, both on and off the pitch. Therefore, it looked like the right moment for a reunion, no matter how much it would cost.
In 2016, Manchester United brought him back in a $115.50m transfer, the biggest deal in club history. In his first year back at Old Trafford, the club won two titles. But he failed to win another trophy with United since then.
Before rejoining the English giants, Pogba helped France reach the 2016 Euro final (in which they lost to Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal). However, he struggled to live up to the expectations in his return to Manchester. After spending more than $100m, people expected him to immediately make an impact, hoping he helped them get back to prominence. Instead, the midfielder left much to be desired.
Pogba couldn’t help United challenge for the Premier League, though he helped them win the EFL Cup and UEFA Europa League titles in his first season. His performances would improve in the following years, and he was even the cover star of FIFA 18, the popular video game developed by EA Sports. Still, the $115 million United forked out for Pogba never resulted in a significant achievement, which was the goal when they signed him in the first place.
In six years at the club, the few good memories are the domestic cup titles and a brace against Manchester City (he fell just short of his first hat-trick) in a memorable come-from-behind win in 2018.
It is not entirely his fault, though. During his second stint at the club, no manager has been able to keep his job for long. That not only shows that neither of them was able to lead the club back where it belongs, but also that the board failed at the time of appointing a new head coach.
Yes, his second tenure at the club was different from the first, in which he barely saw the field. But in terms of expectations, it would be safe to say his second spell was more disappointing. Pogba arrived as the club’s record signing, yet he struggled to help United get back to their glory days. Far from leaving as a club idol who contributed to memorable successes, Pogba would leave for nothing—again.
History has repeated itself in the summer of 2022: Pogba walked out as a free agent, just like he did 10 years ago. To make matters worse, his next destination would once again be Juventus. He left Manchester United having made 232 appearances, with 39 goals and 51 assists to his name. Those numbers are not bad at all, the problem is that many United fans eventually felt the English club overpaid for him. However, Pogba was still viewed as a great midfielder by other clubs.
During his second stint at Manchester United, Pogba was heavily linked with other European giants. Real Madrid seemed interested in him last year, but opted to go after Eduardo Camavinga, a younger French star who made a quick impression at Stade Rennais.
Paris Saint-Germain was also mentioned as a potential destination this summer. At PSG, he would have been teammates with Mbappe and Lionel Messi. For some reason, they didn’t put their foot on the gas to make it happen. Additionally, the likes of Bayern Munich, and even Premier League rivals such as Liverpool or Chelsea were mentioned as potential landing spots for the Frenchman.
Still, he ended up in Turin again. He may have not left United as a legend, but in Juventus, people have the best memories of Pogba. It’s been a couple of years since they won the Serie A title, so what better than landing a guy who already won four of them?
Pogba is one of the few superstars who can show off such a decorated résumé. He has amassed a lot of awards, especially at the beginning of his career, when he was seen as one of the most promising talents in world soccer. But he went on to win other prizes as he grew up as well.
His biggest accolade so far is, without any doubt, the World Cup medal he obtained with France in 2018. Les Bleus had previously won only one World Cup, when Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry and company secured the title in 1998.
It is still a mystery that he’s never won the French Player of the Year award. That could only be explained by the fact that he competed against the likes of Kylian Mbappe, arguably the greatest player produced in France in recent years.
Pogba was also unable to win the Kopa Trophy or the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award. While the first was created in 2018, when Pogba was already ineligible for it, he never had a chance for the latter either as he didn’t play in Ligue 1.
Either way, nothing will take away from Pogba his key contribution to the French triumph in Russia 2018. Given that it remains his biggest success, that memorable campaign —that wouldn’t have been possible without his stellar displays in the Qualifiers— deserves special attention when looking back at his amazing career.
In addition to being one of the most consistent players in Didier Deschamps’ side, dribbling and producing assists throughout the tournament, Pogba scored in the grand final against Croatia. But that was just the icing on the cake for a wonderful performance at the biggest stage. Not many footballers get to play in a World Cup, only a few of them get their hands on the highly desired trophy, but even fewer players can say they put the team on their back.
Pogba did carry his team from the very beginning in that unforgettable tournament. In the first group stage affair, Pogba had a hand in one goal to help his team beat Australia in a hard-fought 2-1 win. He would boss the midfield in the following match, a 1-0 victory against Peru that secured France a ticket to the round of 16. After resting in the group stage finale, Pogba went on to play the full 90 minutes of every knockout stage clash.
To cap off that run with a goal in the final was just the perfect ending for Pogba. Pogba had already had a taste of international glory at the U-20 World Cup, but it was not even close to what it meant for him to win the ultimate trophy with the national team.
Pogba also enjoyed a lot of success at the club level, especially at Juventus. The first club prize in his career was an English League Cup triumph with Manchester United, though he was still a young prospect in that team. Later, he would win multiple trophies.
Just like he found his best form as soon as he joined Juventus, Pogba also found immediate success there. He went on to win the league title in all four seasons with the Italian giants, winning other domestic accolades as well. He was also close to tasting continental glory, though his side fell just short both in the Europa League and Champions League.
In that regard, he had a better results in Europe when playing for Manchester United. In his very first season, Pogba was named the best player of the 2016-17 UEFA Europa League, which the Red Devils won under Jose Mourinho. Pogba contributed to that success with one goal in the 2-0 win against Ajax in the grand final. Overall, Pogba scored three goals and provided one assist in 15 appearances.
But from then on, there would be no more success for Pogba at Old Trafford. In the next five seasons before going back to Italy, Manchester United went trophyless. They were unable to keep up with ‘noisy neighbors’ Manchester City, who won four of the next Premier League titles, or Liverpool, who won the remaining championship. Consequently, he couldn’t write history with United as he did with Juventus.
Though he achieved what every soccer player dreams to, which is to win the FIFA World Cup with their home country, Pogba has one big stain in his career, which is not being able to succeed in the UEFA Champions League. Arguably the most important trophy at the club level, it is still something pending in Pogba’s career.
If we talk about his individual accolades, we’ll notice that he’s achieved most of them in the early stages of his career. Pogba won both the Golden Boy and the U-20 World Cup Golden Ball in 2013, when he was just 20 years old. He would continue to be distinguished during his time at Juventus, making the Serie A team of the year for three consecutive seasons, while also being nominated for the Ballon d’Or and included by FIFA and UEFA in their respective best XI of the year.
Paul Pogba is one of those players who have millions of fans around the world, especially in his country. He is also an example for those who want to follow their passion and succeed. His way to stardom began when he was just a little kid who started to kick a ball at school, and it eventually took him to the biggest stage. With the support of an amazing family, he proved to himself that dreams come true.
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