Again, though, that does not stand up to scrutiny. Pogba and Deschamps have not always been especially close, and even in the days before the World Cup there was talk of a rift, with Pogba using an interview with France Football to suggest his coach change his system, and Deschamps responding by criticizing his performances. Pogba is clearly capable of shining even for a coach he does not particularly love.
There is one other possibility: that the contrast between the Pogba who materialized in Russia and the Pogba that exists in Manchester is down not to some innate difference in him, but in a difference in the context in which he finds himself.
Pogba has always glided through games. He moves languidly, effortlessly, covering vast tracts of ground without ever really appearing to sprint. He does not bustle around the field, harrying and harassing opponents. He does not wear his work-rate, his physicality, on his sleeve. He is, instead, elegant and graceful; he is a player of great moments, who sparks into life, not one who constantly burns.
That is, he said in the interview with France Football, how he has “always been.”
“What I won, I won by being like that,” he said. “That is my style of play.”
The problem is that, in certain lights, economy of movement looks like idleness; effortlessness can seem like a lack of effort. For France, at a World Cup, it was enough to play in moments: international soccer is much more disjointed than the club game, and Pogba’s elegance, in games that lacked rhythm and poise, was a strength, not a weakness. So, too, was what Deschamps called his ability to “do everything” — to be whatever sort of midfielder was required. As France breezed through the tournament, winning relentlessly, there was no reason to shine a harsh light on Pogba.