Pogba and Mbappe: Leaders of a new generation
As heroes of France's World Cup success last summer, the stars of Manchester United and Paris St-Germain do more than illuminate their clubs; they light the way forward for Les Bleus…
The first indication of the damage that Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe could wreak in tandem with France came in a friendly against Russia in March last year.
With the score 0-0 in the 40th minute of the match at Saint-Petersburg’s Krestovsky Stadium, Pogba threaded a pass down the inside-left channel to Mbappe, who cut inside Russian defender Roman Neustadter before tucking in France’s opener. Pogba added a second goal with a fine 25-yard free-kick, before Mbappe set the seal on a 3-1 victory in the closing stages.
“They’ve found their marks for this summer,” wrote French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“I want to win the World Cup and you have to make sacrifices,”he said. In the changing room, he belatedly became the patron he was always supposed to become, setting the tone for the team’s gritty performances with some stirring pre-match speeches.
“I can tell you that Paul Pogba – and I don't know how, and I don't know from where – became a leader,”said centre-back Adil Rami.
“He embodies a new moment in French football, a kind of national unity that we’ve not been used to in the last few years,”French writer and television presenter Eric Naulleau told Le Parisien last year.
“It’s the first time in a decade that we have a player with whom the whole of France identifies positively.”