Paul Pogba is not the kind of player to just go ahead and back down from a challenge. Maybe he's able to do that because he's a whole lot better than a good portion of the players he's up against over the course of any given season. Or maybe it's because he's got the maturity of a 10-year veteran despite still being so incredibly young.
There's no doubting that Pogba's desire to be world class teamed with his amazing array of skills has brought him to where he is today. And the same goes for Pogba asking to wear Juventus' famed No. 10 jersey — he not only wants to be the guy who is expected to produce, he welcomes the responsibility that comes with a number that's expected to produce. That means after the first No. 10 after Alessandro Del Piero's two-decade reign in Turin, Carlos Tévez, spent two über-productive seasons in the No. 10 jersey, it's now Pogba's turn to make his own mark after wearing the No. 6 for three years.
Pogba has basically brought the pressure that comes with having Juventus' most famous jersey number upon himself. Essentially, Pogba has channelled wrestling superstar — like, oh, I dunno, The Rock — and told the pressure one simple thing.
To be completely honest with you, seeing some pictures of Pogba this summer and how absolutely jacked he is physically, he could probably hold his own in wrestling's beloved squared circle. That just happens when you're blessed with incredible strength and skill. Pogba's got the size and strength to shed away would-be tacklers. His insanely powerful shots have become YouTube, Vine and gif sensations across the interwebs.
But the main difference between Pogba's upcoming season and his past three in Turin is pretty easy to recognize.
This, for all intents and purposes, can be dubbed The Season of Pogba. It's not only because he has politely asked for and subsequently taken over as Juventus' No. 10. (Although that does add a good bit to the equation.) But with the summer departures of both Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, Pogba's role in Juventus midfield has grown only that much more. Claudio Marchisio is still around, but Pogba is the star of the show as Il Principino flies under the radar despite continued awesomeness.
Throw in the fact that Pogba, at age 22, will be expected to star at the 2016 European Championships on his home soil 10 months from now and you have plenty of motivation for Pogba to take his already-impressive game to yet another level. And there's no doubting that he's capable of it, too. Now all that's left is for Pogba to actually do so.
We've seen him progress so much since he arrived in the summer of 2012 that it's hard to believe there's more room for Pogba to grow as a player. Yet, there is. Seriously, there is. He's still so young compared to some of the other elite players at his position in the game today that it's hard to think that anything other than "the sky's the limit" is applicable. Pogba's tally of eight Serie A goals last season was tied for second on the Juventus squad with Álvaro Morata. That's as a midfielder who played barely over 2,000 minutes in league play.
I mean, it's not even close to a common occurrence that Marcello Lippi is saying this about a player:
"Pogba is a born leader, and he deserves the No.10. By choosing to stay at Juventus, he showed his character. "Now he must confirm his leadership skills along with his genius, by dispensing with parts of his game that are needless, such as tricks that he does in some areas of the pitch."
That's what Lippi said about Pogba just a few short days ago. That's praise — and it's not the first time somebody has lauded the talent that Pogba brings to the table. He has garnered praise from some of the game's players both past and present.
No pressure, right? Right. But he can handle it.
PAUL POGBA 2015-16 PROJECTION (SERIE A ONLY)