Take a moment to ask yourself a simple question: 'What was I doing at four months after I turned 20 years old?' I'm not talking about myself specifically. You don't need to hear about how I was sitting in a classroom and most likely bored out of my mind as a junior in college. (Kidding, parents.) Just ask it to yourself, and think about it for a second or two.
Now, for comparison's sake, let's throw a name out there into the open.
Four months after Paul Pogba turned 20 years old, he's probably going to be in the market for a new trophy case. No, really. This isn't a drill. Since the 20-year-old Frenchman ditched his teenage years in the middle of March, he has won all of the following.
1. The Scudetto in his first season with Juventus
2. Captained France to the Under-20 World Cup title
3. The Golden Ball at the Under-20 World Cup
It's okay to be a little jealous, folks. You won't be the only one.
To say Paul Pogba has exceeded expectations since he officially became a Juventus player is probably a bit of an understatement. There was hype, sure, but there was also the fact that he was basically going from reserve games in England to the highest level of football in Italy. That's quite a jump, especially for somebody so young and relatively inexperienced at such a high level.
In hindsight, I think he adapted just fine.
Pogba's impact from day one was impecable. His progress under Antonio Conte was just as good. And if it wasn't for a trio of guys named Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, and Claudio Marchisio, Pogba would probably be in line for more playing time than most midfielders inhibiting Serie A at the moment. He's so impressive sometimes, you forget that he's barely into his 20s, let alone coming off a season where he commanded a handful of games when he was still 19.
How good was he? I could tell you that Pogba Or, we could just read this paragraph from ESPNFC's Christopher Atkins.
The French midfielder was masterful for much of the tournament and was, in the final, clearly the most complete player on display. While it was clear that many involved were still learning their trade, Pogba looked completely at ease throughout. He was, quite simply, too good for this level of competition.
Basically, Pogba was a man amongst boys even though those other 21 players on the field were basically the same age. But this all gets back to how Pogba has developed the past year since he became a Juventus player.
We've seen players in their mid-20s become big-time players at Juventus in the past. Heck, we don't have to look further than a couple of players who are currently in the Juve midfield, Vidal and Marchisio. Obviously different situations with one coming up through the club's youth ranks and the other arriving from Germany for a fee that looks ridiculously low at this point, but the point still remains. Players develop at all different kinds of rates. Some faster than others, some arriving with hype and never living up to it.
In this case of Pogba, he has flown right past all of that. Maybe it's because a lot of us had never studied his game over the course of a season due to simple logistical reasons. We were certainly a lot more familiar with somebody like Marchisio, having watched him when he first became a regular with the senior squad in Serie B, then going out on loan at Empoli and coming back home again. But now that we've seen Pogba, we have a baseline and a way to compare and evaluate his game to see just how far it has grown.
A good number of these players in the Under-20 World Cup won't go on to do a whole hell of a lot in their professional careers. Some will have serviceable careers. Others will go on to have productive stints as pros. But then there's Pogba, a player who could very well be a fixture for Didier Deschamps' France squad in a matter of months when World Cup qualifiers get back underway. How many other players from the recently competition will be able to say that?
This is Paul Pogba at 20 years old, guys. Paul Pogba in his mid-20s is just scary...in a good way. Well, at least for those of us who like Juventus.