Paul Pogba said he has become “the most-criticised player in the world” after a challenging campaign with Manchester United and now with France.
Pogba set a record for the most expensive transfer when he joined United from Juventus for £89.3 million in 2016 — one surpassed by Paris Saint-Germain’s move for Neymar last summer — and has frequently come under fire for not living up to his billing.
The midfielder has been in and out of form in his two seasons with United and told Telefoot he remains a prime target for the critics.
“It seems I have less right than others to make mistakes,” he said. “It’s funny, I went from being the biggest transfer in the world to the most-criticised player in the world. The critics will always be there. That’s football.
“When I was little with my friends, we always used to take the mickey out of each other, saying, ‘You were good, you were bad.’ It’s what happens on every football pitch, and I treat the criticism now like I did when I was playing on the street as a kid.
“I’m out there having fun — and that’s the only answer I can give to all those people who criticise me or think I am this or that. It’s not a big deal. Everybody has opinions.”
Pogba has not escaped negativity in France, with his right to a starting role in the World Cup often questioned.
That, however, was prior to his performance in France’s 2-1 victory over Australia in their opening game on Saturday, with the midfielder originally credited for a goal in the 80th minute that was later changed to an own goal by Aziz Behich.
Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, told RMC it was a response typical of one of his clients and that his compatriots should appreciate his talents more.
“It’s not a surprise to me,” Raiola said. “He’s got nothing to prove to the world. He confirmed once again he’s the great player he is and the importance that he can have in a team — and not only in how they play. He always makes himself available to the coach, to his team. He’s a real ambassador for the French national team and for France.”
The midfielder said last month he wants to take a greater leadership role for France during the World Cup, and Raiola said he is trying to back up his words.
“He has grown,” Raiola said. “He has more experience. That’s come with age. It’s normal. But he’s still the same player. He wants his team to do well. He’s a player who doesn’t cheat on the pitch, and he has an answer in several languages, saying the right things. He’s an admirable player. France should be proud to have him, and not always criticise him. It’s easy to criticise. The French love to criticise their heroes, not just Paul.”
And when asked about the constant criticism, Raiola said he cannot understand it.
“It’s perhaps because if they don’t speak about him and great players, they don’t have anything to say,” Raiola said. “It’s often not fair. I think the country should be proud to have players like Paul, and also like Blaise [Matuidi], and not always criticise them. The player himself knows he must always improve. He knows that it’s never enough. It’s normal, but it’s also nice to be a little more positive.”