'Paul Pogba is a long way from being the finished article'

Graeme Souness has his doubts about the French midfielder but feels Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play a crucial role for Manchester United.

Image: Jon Super

Eoin O’Callaghan reports from London.

PAUL POGBA IS a Manchester United player again but despite the fanfare and high-profile nature of the deal, some still have concerns.

There’s the size of the record-breaking fee, the fact that the Frenchman isn’t a consistent goal-getter while there’s also his disappointing contribution to Euro 2016 to contend with too.

“For me, he’s a long way from being the finished article”, says Graeme Souness, who was speaking at the launch of Sky Sports’ Premier League coverage of the new season.

“I think he is a young man with enormous potential. €100m is too much but it’s not his fault he’s going for that kind of money. Normally it’s the guys who put the ball in the net who go for the big money – it is the hardest job in football.

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2016 - Final - Stade de France Source: Mike Egerton

You are not going to pay 100m on the strength of what you saw at the Euros. I’d be wanting more from him.”

As much as Pogba’s drawn-out arrival has hogged the limelight for the last number of weeks, Souness feels the 23-year-old’s influence on the United team and their performances this season may fall short of expectation.

He’s backing another summer signing to have a big impact on and off the pitch.

“I think they (United) are buying Pogba for the next seven or eight years”, he says.

I think the two biggest influences this year are the manager and Ibrahimovic. I think you saw Ibrahimovic (on Sunday) not have a very good game but still be the difference. It’s not just what he’s going to give them over 90 minutes, it’s what he is going to give them around the place. He has got an aura about him, he has got a confidence that he can back up and has backed up in his career so far. At 34 he is not like he was when he was 27 or 28, but I imagine he will stir that dressing room in a very, very positive way next year.”

United believe Pogba can be a driving force in midfield – something they’ve properly lacked ever since Roy Keane left Old Trafford more than a decade ago.

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But Souness believes it’s the Swedish striker who has more in comparison with the former captain in terms of attitude, hunger and drive for success.

“They’d would be delighted if Pogba has the same influence over a 10-year period as Roy did”, he says.

Roy Keane in that dressing room for the last two years…he would have been stirring it up. He wouldn’t have been accepting the players so readily accepting disappointment. He’d have got after them. And I expect Ibrahimovic to be that man now.”

The veteran attacker is a box-office attraction, a top draw. Does the arrival of a high-calibre player – one with a remarkable success rate across a variety of leagues, someone who revels in the art of the unpredictable – have an instant impact on those around him? Does a dressing room suddenly get an injection of energy?

Souness’ colleague at Sky, Paul Merson, saw it happen up close.

“I was lucky enough to be there when Denis Bergkamp got signed from Inter Milan for Arsenal”, he remembers.

“It does help – no doubt about it. Denis was a good pro and an unbelievable footballer. But it can go one way or the other.

He’s quite a strong lad, Zlatan. If the players don’t take to him, he’s pretty strong minded and that’ll be interesting. But it does give you a lift.

I’d be looking more up to him than Pogba if I was a younger player. I’m not sure about him. I don’t think there’ll be too many football matches this season when United come off the pitch and we’re saying, ‘Oh, my God – he’s won that game on his own’ or ‘He absolutely ran the show’.

He’s far from a Cristiano Ronaldo.”


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Eoin O'Callaghan

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