The Rio Report

Is Paul Pogba Europe’s best young midfielder?

The Rio Report

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Squawka compare Paul Pogba's stats to those of his contemporaries as transfer rumours continue to follow the France and Juventus sensation.

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A title-winning season with Juventus, rumours of a £60 million Chelsea bid for his signature, and now part of a France squad dreaming of World Cup glory, Paul Pogba has come a long way since the days when Park Ji-Sung and Rafael da Silva could get a game ahead of him in the Manchester United midfield.

The 21-year-old shone for the Bianconeri last term as Antonio Conte's men surrendered just 12 points in total and blew away the rest of the competition in Serie A. Pogba made 36 league appearances after he took a key role in the side, and proved to Sir Alex Ferguson and his doubters that he is indeed the real deal.

The midfielder revealed he was "disgusted" by Ferguson's reluctance to promote his to a starting role for the Red Devils despite the paucity of options available back in 2012, and Louis van Gaal is reportedly interested in bringing Pogba back to Old Trafford.

Since moving on a free to Juventus, Pogba has gone from strength to strength, so much so that he is now an integral figure for Didier Deschamps as he looks to rebuild Les Bleus after the disastrous World Cup of 2010.

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Pogba netted seven league goals for Juve during the 2013-14 campaign and created 48 chances, of which seven were assists. A direct hand in 14 goals proves the youngster has an eye for goal, while a passing accuracy of 84 percent has also helped his club to starve the opposition of possession - it helps when you're playing alongside Andrea Pirlo, mind.

One major aspect of Pogba's rise to prominence is his fearlessness: he believed he was good enough to succeed at United, and the same is true at Juve; the difference is, he has been given the chance in Italy.

59 shots on goal in 36 games mark him out as an ambitious midfielder who is not shy of taking a shot from range, with three of his seven goals - against Sampdoria, Napoli and Bologna - scored from distance. Pogba is a real threat from long range and will surely improve his shooting accuracy of 49% in time.

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The attraction for Juventus - and initially for Ferguson - was that Pogba seems like the complete package: he is tall, powerful, skilful, can pick a pass, shoot and tackle. In a modern game where three midfielders are often used instead of the two from the 1990s, it is rare to find a player who can offer such a range.

Alongside his offensive output, Pogba also gives Conte that bite in the middle, making an average of two defensive actions per game, of which 41.9% were interceptions last season. With 78 of 135 (58%) headed duels won, the 1.86m man is a valuable presence at set pieces, but that height does not inhibit him.

An impressive 74 completed take-ons mark Pogba out as a real danger carrying the ball towards the opposition, and his all-action approach is reminiscent of Patrick Viera in his pomp. One area where he could improve, however, is his tackling; the 21-year-old has only won 63 of 155 (41%) attempted tackles, and committed 85 fouls - but with just four yellow cards picked up, it seems the midfielder knows when and where to make them count to break up attacks.

But is Pogba is really worth the money Chelsea are reportedly prepared to pay, compared to the rest of the continent's players who are under the age of 23?

There have been a number of other shining lights in Europe's top five leagues in the past year, with the likes of Mario Goetze impressing at Bayern Munich despite his frustrationat the amount of game time he has had. The 22-year-old Germany international played 27 times in the Bundesliga last term, but still recorded an impressive 10 goals and eight assists, while notching a passing accuracy of 88%.

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Die Roten did, however, have to pay Borussia Dortmund's release clause of €37m for Goetze's services, and he justified the fee with a Performance Score of 916 as Bayern swept to the title with ease. Another expensive youngster who shone last season was Lucas Moura, who joined PSG from Sao Paulo for around €45m in January 2013.

The Brazilian, like Goetze, has been worth the fee as he helped the Parisian club to the Ligue 1 title with all-action displays, scoring five and creating 11 more. Not only that, his all-round game is superb, with a passing accuracy of 87% and a fearsome physical presence: he has won 60% of tackles, 56% of headed duels, and completed 85% of take-ons to earn a Performance Score of 961. Luiz Felipe Scolari may not have had much love for Moura this summer as he missed out on Brazil's World Cup squad, but the Selecao sure look like they could use him right now.

Isco of Real Madrid is another youngster who has impressed after a big-money move to a top club, moving to Real Madrid from Malaga in 2013 for €30m. The crafty midfielder created a superb 64 chances in 32 La Liga appearances, recording six assists while adding eight goals himself in a fine debut season at the Bernabeu, with a passing accuracy of 88% a fantastic return for his age. With a Performance Score of 1040, he is comfortably ahead of Pogba, as is James Rodriguez, who notched 1083 after a great season with Monaco.

The Colombian - now starring at the World Cup - moved to the municipality from Porto for €45m, and earned them second place in Ligue 1 on their return to the top flight with a series of fantastic displays. His 73 chances created resulted in 12 assists, while nine goals on top of that make him one of Europe's deadliest creators.

In terms of whether he is the best young midfielder in Europe, Pogba still has some way to go. His petulance in Brazil against Honduras very nearly cost Deschamps a player, and he was dropped for the win over Switzerland as a result. We have seen that Pogba needs to improve his tackling, and for such an imposing figure, he cannot be drawn into the many squabbles that will undoubtedly come his way as his reputation grows.

There are other young midfielders who are currently outperforming Pogba at some of the top clubs in the world, but the 21-year-old is not far from their level. A move back to Old Trafford to learn from Louis van Gaal may well tease out the Frenchman's full potential, though he is certainly not stalling at Juve. Given his rapid rise with the Bianconeri, it would be no surprise to see Pogba develop into the world's most complete box-to-box midfielder - and that will be galling for United, as they let him slip away when they needed one the most. Others may perform specific midfield roles with more clarity, but few, if any, have the all-round potential of Les Bleus' next big hope.

Over to you, monsieur Pogba...

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