Anyone who remembers the saga connected with the move of French youngster Gael Kakuta from French club Lens to Chelsea last year will realize how messy these type of transfers can become. Chelsea were initially banned from signing any players in the following two transfer windows due to their involvement in inducing Kakuta to break his contract at Lens. That ban was subsequently lifted but Manchester United faced similar sanctions over the wrangle of 17 year old Paul Pogba’s transfer from Le Havre before the issue was finally resolved.
So what sort of player has United got in return for all the trouble the club went to? This is how the official Manchester United website describes him – Paul Pogba is a highly promising young French midfielder who officially joined United on 6 October 2009. He’s an accomplished performer in defence who joined the Reds from French Ligue 2 outfit Le Havre in a much commented on move.
He made his debut for United’s Under 18s in a 2-1 defeat to Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road on 10 October 2009. Although on the losing side, it was an eye catching first outing in a Reds shirt. The teenager hails from Lagny Sur Marne, on the outskirts of Paris and has been a regular for France‘s Under16 national side.
Pogba was initially picked up by Le Havre‘s chief scout Franck Sale in the suburbs of Paris when he was only 13 of age. Sale had no hesitation in recruiting him to the club’s renowned academy which had produced a number of talented youngsters. “I was impressed by his attitude” Sale remembers “He was already like a footballer and had great game intelligence for his age.”
Academy director Frederic Lipka took over at Le Havre a year later and was highly impressed by Pogba. “I was sure of the quality that I was seeing” he said “He was a player who was already very efficient at a very young age. There were others that were also good but the amount by which he was progressing was striking. Straight away, I thought when he reached 17 or 18, he would be ready to step up to the top level”
Lipka recognized the huge potential in the teenager “The quality of his technique and his size” he said “he was still growing, he was still developing as an athlete, and he was still uncovering his full technical potential.
Pogba’s form also impressed the France U16 coaching staff and was soon selected for his international debut. “You can see a mix of Patrick Vieira and Abou Diaby in Pogba” Sale noted “a powerful and commanding player who is still good at moving with the ball and dribbling”
Pogba was also a popular pupil at the academy according to Lipka “He was a charming lad when he was at our academy, very likeable” he said “he was emotional when he left because he felt good here and was leaving into the great unknown. I hope he goes in at a good level because he is going to do great things. On a human level, I have memories of a very likeable boy. There were never any problems with him. He has a great attitude.”
It was only a matter of time before the youngster was noticed by some of Europe’s bigger clubs following some eye catching displays for France’s U17’s. Lipka has some concerns about Pogba moving to a club like United. “The problem is his departure wasn’t expected” Lipka said “It’s a shame that the Manchester United machine came knocking on the door because at his age it’s a bit of a gamble for him. I hope that he will get the chance to reach a high sporting level in Manchester.”
For his part, Sale has plenty of confidence in the lad. “He knows English clubs are very demanding and he has the right kind of attitude to succeed there. His one weakness during his time at Le Havre was stamina” he said “but he did show signs of progression and surely, alongside coaching staff at Manchester United, he will improve. He’s the type of player that is sought after in England” he predicted “and with his physical power he should adapt well to the game there.”
Sir Alex Ferguson has a good track record of guiding his young players to develop their full potential. In Pogba, he may have obtained a future central midfielder who could serve the club for many years to come.
Is too much pressure being put on 16 year old youths to move overseas?