Paul Pogba Has Something To Tell You
Out of the entire French squad of world champions, Paul Pogba is surely the most charismatic. At age 25, the Manchester United midfielder has sidestepped the opinions of others and forged his own path to global success. Living life the Paul Pogba way is easier than it seems: all you need to do is adopt his lessons learned.
1. Assert your self-confidence
Pogba isn’t hesitant to express a desire to become the best player in history, nor to show off his sports cars and (rather sizeable) house. So, does that mean he’s fallen to the dark side so often embraced by the stereotypical professional footballer? Frankly, he defends himself pretty well: “I’m a happy man, who laughs, who changes haircuts. I joke, I dance, I don’t dress like others. I show off, yes, but I’m not arrogant. It’s my nature. In Europe, this behaviour comes off as shocking – you have to stay reserved rather than speak your mind but I remain true to myself. I have what we call ‘the American mentality’. I’d say I’m different, and certain people take it in the wrong way, but I don’t judge. Each to their own.”
2. Be a leader
Pogba’s rousing speeches during the 2018 World Cup swiftly became football legend. “We want to see warriors on the field today,” he growled during half-time of France’s epic round of 16 clash with Argentina. “I don’t want to go back tomorrow, we’re staying at the hotel. We are going to eat that nasty sautéed pasta again!” Before the final, his voice came to the fore again: “We lost the European Championship final… we know that. But we aren’t gonna let another team take what’s ours today.” A year ago, no one could have imagined that Les Bleus number 6 would become such a leader. This is a man who had been voluntarily silent to the global media. But things change. “The group and the coach gave me space to express myself,” he explains, “but I didn’t want to confuse the dressing room. Compared to the veteran players in the squad, must I speak? Impose myself? Grab a hold of the group? I needed approval from the system, from the staff. I’m 25 years old, I can speak to the young and the old. The cameras caught another side of me in the tournament. And, you know, that’s me, too.”
3. Believe in your ability
Prior to the World Cup, Pogba was a player who divided opinion. Sometimes he starred centre stage, sometimes he lacked aggression. This was the player that you worried about; the one that could easily fall victim to the high expectations that have always surrounded him. In Russia, he answered his critics, and a superb World Cup was capped-off by a goal in the final. “I told myself, I needed to be focussed for this competition. Everyone was talking about my game, my role… I needed to respond on the field. I did it well, I think. I was feeling good. I stayed sober, avoided crazy hairstyles – so that we wouldn’t speak about anything other than my performance. I believed in myself.”
4. Go beyond your duties
Central midfielder, attacking midfielder, playmaker: where does Pogba fit best? With his elegant technique (his passing range is eye-popping) and his physicality (6’3; 84 kilos) he naturally draws comparisons to Patrick Vieira. The truth is, La Pioche can play anywhere. That much was confirmed by MHD, his rapper friend, with the lyric, “Left, right, centre, a little everywhere, adaptable, box-to-box. Attack, defence, making the game, being decisive. Different from the rest, doing more, not just content with one spot or one action (…) six on my back!”
5. Cultivate your style
As he exits his bathroom of the hotel suite, dressed in a dark grey cross-patterned suit embellished with white inscriptions of ‘La Pioche’ – with matching Louboutins – Pogba makes for quite a sight. “Tell me this isn’t the GQ style!” he exclaims, proudly. But hold on: miniscule typography woven into a suit over and over again – hasn’t MMA fighter Conor McGregor already staked a claim on this trend? “No, he copied me, I had it before, you can check.” Pogba’s style is on lock; always on point, even when he showed up to this shoot in black shorts and yellow Balenciaga sneakers. “I love doing things that are out of the ordinary.”
6. Make family sacred
The youngest of the clan, Pogba maintains close ties to his older brothers (twins, Mathias and Florentin, also professional football players) and his mother, Yeo. “My family is my blood. With them, I remain Paul: La Pioche. I’ve always laughed, wanted to be footballer and had crazy haircuts – all the way back to when I played at the US Torcy, my first club. Not much changes, the name Pogba has just become more well-known – and that affects them too.” He gets a little emotional talking about his mother. “My mom – she’s my mom, my friend. She doesn’t ground me anymore. But she sends me messages.” Pogba’s father, Fassou-Antoine, who passed away in 2017, stays close to him each day, in the form of a medallion around his neck.
7. Start a trend
Ask anyone to imitate Pogba, they’d probably attempt a dab. Little surprise to hear, then, that he’s a huge dancer. “I’ve danced since I was very young. It’s part of my life, just like music.” The footballer made the move popular, done first by American footballers who themselves took it from a US hip-hop trio, Migos. “Everyone asks me to do a dab,” he laughs. “I was surprised by the trend. When it made its way onto the celebrations in video games – it’s almost shocking. It really wasn’t planned, it was instinct.”
8. Open yourself to others
The most followed player in the English Premier League on Instagram (30 million and counting), Pogba embraces his fanbase. “I post because my fans like seeing my private life, they want to see a football player at home.” This was what led him to Pogba Mondial, a mini-series that showed-off his luxe digs – including a private cinema. “I don’t play a role. To those who tell me that I brag too much, I tell them it’s my work that brought me here, and that thanks to football I can do whatever I want.”
9. Free yourself of prejudice
Twenty years ago, when the smartphone did not exist but all things football still caused a stir, Pogba mightn’t have had the same notoriety. Ostentatious displays of wealth, though, have become a modern faux pas. “The money, I didn’t steal it. I earned it honestly and do whatever I want with it. If I offer my mom a house, I’m a nice guy. If I buy myself one, I’m a show-off. I can’t understand this mentality. Where is the problem? You don’t feel superior to others because you buy a Ferrari or a 250m2 home.”
10. Choose your partners well
A sucker for nice cars (he arrived to his GQ interview in a Bentley), watches (he sports a beautiful black Richard Mille) and custom-tailored suits, Pogba was the first player to have been transferred for more than 120 million euros (from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016). And yet, he doesn’t accumulate the army of sponsors that you might expect. “I get many requests, for sure, but I like to do long-term deals, not a bunch of small or medium ones to be seen everywhere. I have very few contracts. It’s my choice.” Adidas is his only major partner. But considering Pogba was actually the most bankable athlete in the world in 2018, according to SportsPro, brands are unlikely to give up the chase anytime soon. “If there is a good opportunity, we can always talk,” he says with a grin.
Photography: Jonas Unger
This article originally featured in GQ France