Manchester United’s Paul Pogba has said he has struggled to focus following France’s World Cup win — but has insisted he can still lead the club despite being dropped from vice captaincy duties.
Pogba has reportedly fallen out with manager Jose Mourinho on various occasions this season, and that has coincided with a slow start to the season for United.
And the former Juventus midfielder, who has scored twice and provided two assists in eight top-flight outings, said he has found it harder to motivate himself, having won the biggest prize of all in Russia.
“It’s hard to concentrate, to start again, to hit hard, because we touched the stars,” the 25-year-old former world record signing told AFP. “For us, it was the best trophy you can win as a footballer.
“But we like challenges too, we have goals. For example, I’ve never won the Premier League, that’s an objective. I’d like to do that.”
Mourinho last month revealed Pogba would no longer be considered vice-captain of the club despite having already worn the captain’s armband three times this season in the absence of Antonio Valencia.
Prior to the World Cup, Pogba had stated his ambition of stepping up his role within the France squad, and he was credited by teammates with having given a number of inspirational dressing room speeches during Les Bleus’ summer triumph.
Hugo Lloris lifted the trophy in Moscow in mid-July as Didier Deschamps’ captain, and Pogba said he would continue being an influential figure in the squad even if he never replaced the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper.
“I’ve never played for the France team to be captain, already being here is a big thing for me” Pogba said. “You don’t have to be captain to speak.
“For me, a leader isn’t someone who wears something on his arm, who puts on the captain’s armband. It’s the squad that put me in that position, who gave me the freedom to express myself, and gave me the confidence to.”
Despite his current struggles at United, Pogba was one of six members France’s World Cup squad to be named in the list of 30 nominees for the Ballon d’Or, released by France Football on Monday.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have each won five times in a decade-long stranglehold on the honour with Zinedine Zidane the last French winner after their last World Cup triumph in 1998.
And Pogba hopes the second star added to the French shirt will be the lead to a compatriot winning the award again — but does not put himself in that bracket.
“There are a lot who deserve [the award], I don’t put myself among them,” he said. “Whether it be ‘Grizou’ [Antoine Griezmann], Kylian [Mbappe] or Raph [Varane], they deserve it a lot more than me.
“I can’t pick out one of them. But I hope with all my heart that it’s one of the four, because there is [also] NG [N’Golo Kante].”
Lloris is the other member of Didier Deschamps’ triumphant squad nominated while Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, an outcast at international level, made it a seventh Frenchman on list for the award.
The winner, which will be voted for by a global panel of 176 football journalists, will be announced on December 3.