Paul Pogba may have established himself as one of the best young midfielders in Europe, but his Juventus coach Antonio Conte has urged him to continue to improve.
Tired of warming the bench or playing for the reserves, the French youngster decided to severe his ties with Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson and move to Italy. Leaving one of the world’s biggest clubs and one of the all-time great managers for a team that were – and still are in many ways – in a rebuilding phase was a bit risky, but it has turned out to be just fine.
The 21-year-old was a hit in Turin right from the start, making a total of 18 starts in Serie A and eight appearances in the Champions League in 2012-13. He score five goals in total and won the Scudetto, and suddenly United realised what they had lost.
Pogba has been brilliant again this campaign, gradually establishing himself as one of the first names on the Bianconeri teamsheet. Six goals and five assists have arrived in 27 league fixtures, as Juve look set to win the Scudetto for an unprecedented third year in a row and also challenge for Europa League honours.
At 21, Pogba is far from the finished article but he looks likely to be so in a couple of years’ time. In football, as in life, improvement should happen continuously, something that Conte wants Pogba to learn right now.
The France international suffered a dip in form at the turn of the year and Conte probably had it in mind when he told reporters that he has to make progress and build on the facets that he has already garnered in Italy.
"Paul has made great strides since he arrived,” the Italian tactician told reporters. “I think he's improved physically, technically and tactically, but he can and should keep growing. He mustn't settle for where he is now.”
United have been linked with a move for the youngster in the summer, perhaps having realised what a gem of a player they lost two years ago. Yet, it looks highly unlikely that Pogba will return to the club that did not have faith in him and towards whom he does not seem to have much affection either.
If indeed Pogba continues to improve and add to his skills as Conte wants him to, then United may well look elsewhere for midfield inspiration. Because this bird ain’t going back.