Why Pogba’s No.10 shirt could be pivotal moment for player, Juventus & the transfer market

The Bianconeri hope that making the Frenchman their new No.10 will let Barcelona and Manchester City know that the midfield ace will remain in Turin for years to come

Why Pogba's No.10 shirt could be pivotal moment for player, Juventus & the transfer market

Earlier this summer, Sir Alex Ferguson advised Juventus to cash in on Paul Pogba. “I would sell him,” the former Manchester United boss told Tuttosport. “It’s true I let him go before but I would let him go.”

The Bianconeri refused to listen to the Scot, no doubt reluctant to take the advice of a man who had allowed the most promising midfielder to leave Old Trafford for nothing. Ferguson may not appreciate Pogba’s value, even now – but Juventus certainly do. Hence, Thursday’s announcement that the Frenchman will be their new No.10.

The jersey holds a mythical status in Turin. Omar Sivori, Fabio Capello, Liam Brady, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Carlos Tevez – the players to have worn the Bianconero No.10 essentially reads as a shortlist of the most influential players in the club’s history. Thus, deciding who should wear the shirt is never taken lightly. It is a carefully considered move – and it has been no different this time around.

Pogba, as has been well documented, is one of the most sought-after individuals in world football. Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain – all of the game’s richest clubs have an interest in signing the 22-year-old. Indeed, so intense is the competition, so high are the stakes, that Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has admitted that even the Roman Abramovich-funded Blues have no chance of landing Pogba.

“I think everybody has an interest in Pogba,” the Portuguese told reporters on July 19, “but there are things you can do and things you cannot do. I love the Eiffel Tower but I can’t have the Eiffel Tower in my garden. I can’t even have the Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas!”

Mourinho may have had a not-so-hidden agenda in that instance, cheekily suggesting that Abramovich needs to loosen the purse strings once more in order to land the game’s elite players, but his appraisal underlines just how highly Pogba is regarded. Indeed, while Dutch icon Johan Cruyff may not believe the hype surrounding Pogba, dismissing Barca’s €80 million bid as “absurd”, but Juve fully appreciate his value to Massimiliano Allegri’s team – and the club’s marketing department.

After arriving in Turin in 2012, Pogba quickly set about proving himself one of the most promising young talents in the world, forcing then-coach Antonio Conte to start experimenting with Claudio Marchisio as a trequartista because the new arrival had become undroppable, an integral member of Juve’s midfield three.

Pogba’s influence has only increased in the intervening years and now, following the summer departures of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Tevez, the Frenchman is now undoubtedly Juve’s most important player. Giving him the No.10 jersey only reinforces that impression; reinforces that fact. Indeed, Pogba was a pivotal player even with the No.6 on his back but now he will be clearly identifiable as the team’s lynchpin, their star man – and the Bianconeri are going to sell many more Pogba shirts as a result.

It is also a significant switch for the midfielder on a personal level. This is not a man who runs away from pressure but embraces it; seeks it out.

Even before it was announced that he would be given the No.10 shirt, Pogba spoke openly of his desire to fill the void left by Vidal, a prolific presence in the Juve midfield. He wants more responsibility. Now he has got it.

The change of shirt number will not necessarily mean a change of role, though.

Massimiliano Allegri has toyed with the idea of deploying Pogba as a trequartista at regular intervals since succeeding Conte at the helm last year but he wants a specialist No.10. Hence, Juve will continue their pursuit of a classic attacking midfielder, with the club set to step up their bid to sign the versatile Julian Draxler from Schalke after their Supercoppa Italiana showdown with Lazio in China.

In that game, though, all eyes will be on Juve’s most prized possession.

The Bianconeri have made a clear statement of intent, sent an unequivocal message to their rivals: Pogba is Juve’s new No.10 – and will be for many years to come.


David Luiz’s mum defends under-fire PSG man

The Brazilian was left red-faced by the brilliance of Luis Suarez on Wednesday but Regina Celia has told him to stay positive

David Luiz's mum defends under-fire PSG man

David Luiz has been given public words of encouragement following his disastrous game for Paris Saint-Germain this week – by his mum.

The Brazilian was given a torrid time by Luis Suarez as Barcelona won 3-1 in France in the Champions League quarter-final first leg, suffering the ignominy of being nutmegged for each of the Uruguayan’s goals.

Regina Celia has since taken to social media to offer support to her son and urge him to keep his head up for the remainder of the campaign.

“We are proud of you, David Luiz,” she wrote on Instagram.

“I’ll always have you as a son, keep your head up. God knows everything! Jesus fights for us, who are we to judge!

“I will always love you, in good games and much more when things are not going so well.”

David Luiz, who joined from Chelsea in a €50 million deal last summer, has made 38 appearances in all competitions for PSG this season.

‘If Messi scores 40 goals, he’s had a bad season!’ – Blanc

The Barcelona forward has been in prolific form in the last three months, though the PSG coach is wary of only concentrating on nullifying the Argentine

'If Messi scores 40 goals, he's had a bad season!' - Blanc

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has described Lionel Messi as “unstoppable” ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League tussle with Barcelona.

The Argentine forward has been in incredible form in 2015 and has scored 45 goals in 44 games so far this season to propel the Catalan club to the top of La Liga and into the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi scored in both clashes with PSG last year, although Blanc is wary of putting all of his defensive eggs in one basket when there are also the likes of Luis Suarez and Neymar to worry about.

“Lionel Messi is unstoppable,” Blanc told reporters. “If he scores 40 goals, he’s had a bad season!

“But we can’t just focus on him. The solution must be collective, man marking doesn’t work.

“We will need to be aggressive defensively but in the good sense of the term, to be able to stop their attackers.”

The coach also piled praise on PSG forward Javier Pastore, who was described by France legend Eric Cantona as better than Messi or Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday.

“Pastore has huge potential and is becoming an important player for us,” he said of the Argentine. “He has matured enormously in the last six months.”

PSG will be hoping they can replicate their win over Luis Enrique’s side at Parc des Princes in the Champions League group stage in Wednesday’s tie, with the return leg at Camp Nou to be played six days later.

PSG may be lacking a certain Swedish icon in attack but they could still pose problems, but Barca has a solution.

FC Barcelona face a familiar opponent in Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday and will need their defensive talisman on top form in order to avoid a similar result earlier this season when the two sides met in the French capital.

Gerard Pique was on the bench when a clinical PSG side inflicted upon Luis Enrique his first goals conceded and first defeat as Barcelona manager in a 3-2 loss at the end of September.

The Catalan defender had yet to win over the new boss and was made to earn back his starting spot as Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu consolidated their status as Barça’s favored center-back pairing.

While Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar typically grab the headlines on most occasions, it has been the inspired resurgence of Pique which has largely contributed to Barça regaining top spot in the league and progressing to their record eighth consecutive Champions League quarter final.

He was the pick of the bunch in Barcelona’s 1-2 win against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium with a series of important challenges while he was near perfect in a win by the same scoreline over Real Madrid at the Camp Nou just last month.

Against slightly less glamorous opponents but of equal importance was his last ditch tackle to prevent Charles from giving Celta Vigo the lead which turned a tough encounter on its head as, just minutes later, fellow center-back Mathieu handed Barça the only goal of the game.

There will be no Zlatan Ibrahimovic for PSG which might seem like a welcome absence from Barcelona’s perspective but it must be reminded that the Swede was also unavailable earlier in the season when the French champions ran Barça’s defense ragged.

The likes of Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi gave Barça all the warning signs necessary in that victory and it could take a performance of similar magnitude from Pique to achieve a positive result.

Pique’s error led to the goal which narrowed the margin at the top of La Liga to two points on Saturday, as Sevilla rallied back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

While Pique’s uncharacteristic mistake was highlighted as the key incident which ultimately determined the result of the game, the overall performance of the collective had been declining in recent weeks and was no surprise to many that maximum points were not earned in Seville.

The performances in Barcelona’s last four matches have been slightly concerning as the dominant levels demonstrated in recent months have not been on display with signs of tiredness creeping into the Catalans’ play.

On the whole, however, Barça have improved greatly as the season has progressed and have seemingly rectified the flaws which that defeat to PSG back in September exposed.

Two of PSG’s goals in that match came from sloppy defending at set pieces. Since then, Barça have conceded just three of their last 27 goals from set plays.

That form will have to continue as PSG demonstrated their muscle from dead balls in their triumph in the previous round against Chelsea; first through David Luiz to take the game to extra-time and then the tie’s decisive goal from Thiago Silva, also from a corner.

Luis Enrique holds one training session per week specifically on set plays – the team’s improvement at both ends has not happened by chance and more of the same defensive sturdiness will be vital on Wednesday.

Luis Enrique: Paris Saint-Germain can beat Barcelona without Ibrahimovic

The Catalans’ coach is anticipating goals galore in the French capital, even though the home side’s top scorer will miss the game through suspension

Luis Enrique: Paris Saint-Germain can beat Barcelona without Ibrahimovic

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique does not believe that the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will hinder Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday’s Champions League showdown, pointing out that the Ligue 1 titleholders have already proven that they can beat the Catalans without their star striker.

The two sides were drawn in the same group and PSG defeated Barca 3-2 in the French capital only to ultimately miss out on a top seeding for the knockout stage after being beaten 3-1 in their return clash at Camp Nou.

Luis Enrique thus believes it foolish to read too much into the fact that PSG will be without the suspended Ibrahimovic and a number of injured players for their quarter-final, first-leg clash.

“Paris have several major absentees but let’s not forget that they won against us when Zlatan was out, and we won when we met and he played,” the Barca coach told reporters on Tuesday.

“So, one never knows the importance of absentees. We had a good game in September, although we lost – we had many chances.

“But we will definitely need to improve defensively. They have a very good squad, and they showed yet again their qualities by beating Chelsea [in the last 16].”

Indeed, Luis Enrique is expecting goals in both legs, arguing that both sides are stronger in attack than they are at the back.

“I think this tie will be open because our teams are actually quite similar,” the former Spain international added.

“Paris can build from the back, play on the counter… there are many threats from this team.

“This should be an entertaining match. I think we will see a lot of goals, but of course I hope we score more than Paris!

“This won’t be easy of course, as we’ve had many difficulties against them recently.”

Mourinho: We couldn’t cope with PSG… now we must win the Premier League

Jose Mourinho admitted that Chelsea “couldn’t cope” with Paris Saint-Germain after his side were knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday evening, but insists the Blues cannot dwell on their disappointment.

Mourinho: We couldn't cope with PSG... now we must win the Premier League

The French champions – who had Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off in the first half – twice came from behind to draw 2-2 and progress to the quarter-finals on away goals, and Mourinho was dissatisfied with the way his side failed to nullify PSG’s threat.

“Of course, we had the game in our hands twice but I think the opponent was stronger than us,” he told Sky Sports. “They coped better than us with the pressure of the game. I think with them at 10 men we felt the pressure of winning even more.

“They had nothing to lose, they just played their game. We couldn’t cope with that. We conceded two goals from set-pieces where the organisation is clear, where the markers have to decide and the players in the zone are the same. We conceded two goals that were difficult to accept.”

Mourinho, though, says that Chelsea must now turn their focus to the Premier League as they attempt to win the domestic title.

“I told my players as I always do that it’s not after the match that I kick tables and doors,” he added. “It’s time to be calm and analyse the team because we have a game on Sunday and we have to win the Premier League.

“We are playing to win the Premier League and we have more matches to play.”

Chelsea 2-2 Paris Saint-Germain (3-3 agg aet): Mourinho’s men dumped out despite Ibra red

The Sweden international was dismissed in the first half but the French champions twice fought back to book their place in the quarter-finals at the Blues’ expense

Chelsea 2-2 Paris Saint-Germain (3-3 agg aet): Mourinho's men dumped out despite Ibra red

An extra-time Thiago Silva header saw Paris Saint-Germain knock Chelsea out of the Champions League and book their place in the quarter-finals by virtue of the away goals rule after a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The Brazilian centre-back gave away a penalty with a bizarre handball six minutes into extra time, but he made amends by heading a dramatic equaliser with six minutes left to play to send PSG through on away goals, with the tie ending 3-3 on aggregate.

The visitors had been facing an uphill task when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was controversially sent off shortly after the half-hour mark, but they got off lightly when a foul on Diego Costa in the box went unpunished.

Edinson Cavani then hit the post for PSG before Gary Cahill looked to have settled an ill-tempered tie with an 81st-minute drive, though former Chelsea man David Luiz forced an additional 30 minutes with a bullet header five minutes later.

PSG had the momentum heading into extra time, but they were undone when Silva attempted to palm the ball clear in the box having mistimed his jump, giving Eden Hazard the chance to fire the hosts in front from the spot.

The Belgian made no mistake as he coolly converted, but Silva had the last word – looping a header over Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to stun Stamford Bridge into silence.

Jose Mourinho made one change to the side that started the first leg, with Oscar coming in for Willian, while Thiago Motta slotted into the PSG midfield having missed the home tie through injury.

Ibrahimovic saw red for recklessly lunging into a challenge on Oscar in the 31st minute, although the Sweden international did look to be trying to withdraw from the tackle when contact was made.

The forward’s case was not helped by the sea of blue shirts that immediately surrounded referee Bjorn Kuipers – who officiated last year’s final – in the immediate aftermath of the flashpoint.

Oscar could count himself lucky to remain on the pitch when he avoided a yellow card for bundling into Marco Verratti a few moments after receiving his first booking, before Costa justifiably accused Luiz of catching him with an elbow.

Costa and Luiz squabbled for much of the encounter, and the former should arguably have been awarded a penalty two minutes from the break when his heel was clipped by Cavani in the box.

Cavani came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when he beat the offside trap to take the ball beyond Courtois in the 57th minute, but the Uruguayan’s eventual effort from a tight angle struck the near post.

Courtois got down well to keep out Javier Pastore with 20 minutes left on the clock, before the match threatened to descend into farce.

First, Costa received a booking for a cynical challenge on Thiago Silva, before being confronted by chief nuisance Luiz.

The Brazil international recoiled as if he had been headbutted by the striker, but replays exposed his play-acting, spotted by Kuipers, who added Luiz’s name to his already-bulging notebook.

Sadly, the incident was indicative of a match that was marred by poor discipline, but Cahill looked to have put the tie to bed nine minutes from time.

The ball fell to the England defender as PSG failed to clear their lines from a corner, and he rifled home from 12 yards.

That lead lasted only five minutes, though, as Luiz found the net with a firm header from a corner, a few moments after claiming to have had his shirt pulled in the box.

Silva’s bizarre slapped clearance offered Chelsea a chance to apparently put the match to bed six minutes into the additional period – an opportunity Hazard was only too grateful to take from the penalty spot.

At that stage, Chelsea looked to be heading into the last eight, but having cost his side earlier in extra time, Silva made amends and dumped the Blues out of the competition.

His looping header from a corner turned the match on its head, seeing PSG into the quarter-finals at the end of a frantic game and reversing the outcome of last year’s last-eight meeting between the pair, when Chelsea progressed on away goals after a 3-3 draw over two legs.