Football star portrait: Selfish, evasive, obsessed with money

The Pogmentary: Born Ready follows Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba.Provided by Amazon Prime

So here we are: the Canadian men’s team will play at this year’s World Cup in Qatar, and Canada will host the 2026 World Cup along with the US and Mexico. There are many football fans in this country, and success is not alien to them, the women’s team has been one of the best in the world for many years.

And there are those who are just curious. They ask, what’s the catch? They ask who are the really best players in the world and where are they? They wonder about the money and the system behind top football.

Pogmentary (streams on Amazon Prime Video) is new and offers some of the needed answers. It is also a whimsical portrait of an enigma. We are talking about Paul Pogba, who just a few years ago was one of the hottest players on the planet and left a club in Italy to join an English club, Manchester United, for the biggest transfer fee in history. The thing is, it didn’t work for the player or the club. It worked for his agent and his lawyer, mind you.

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Pogba is black, Muslim and French. He won the World Cup with France in 2018. His family emigrated to France from Guinea. A midfielder, he has shown amazing skill for his country and sometimes for his club teams. A documentary about him is coming out at a time when many Manchester United fans want to see him from behind.

It’s hard to believe his history and relationship with the club. It doesn’t make sense if you don’t understand the football ecosystem. As a teenager, in 2009 Pogba was persuaded to leave his club team in France, Le Havre, to join Manchester United’s youth team. Even then there was a fuss, with Le Havre claiming that the move was behind the scenes and possibly illegal. In response, United threatened to sue. At United, Pogba flourished for a time in the youth team. At the time, United were probably the best club team in the world, and we see echoes of that Beckham era in the dock.

Then United let Pogba go. He was good, perhaps on the cusp of greatness, but refused to sign a new contract and moved to Juventus in Italy. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson expressed annoyance. At Juventus and playing for France, Pogba flourished. He was labeled “one of the best players in the game”. In 2016, United wanted him back and paid a then-record €105 million for him. Disappointment ensued. Now Pogba is probably on the road again. That’s what this beautifully done but crazy portrait is about.

“No one came to me for help. I did everything myself,” says Pogba. Share this with the many managers, coaches, colleagues, and anyone else who has tried to make it work. He seems to have many grievances, some small and hard to understand. He claims that when he got injured, United didn’t support him. “They didn’t help me, they didn’t care, and I had to go to my country’s national team to feel better,” he says. It’s hard to believe given United’s huge investment in him.

Pogmentary is a whimsical portrait of a riddle.Provided by Amazon Prime

We see him at home with his wife and children. He is very cheerful, laid-back and smirking. He wanders around Manchester, nostalgic for the street where he first lived in the city. We see him delivering food to the homeless at night. “It doesn’t matter much to me, but it makes a huge difference to them,” he says.

Is this a staging? Things get especially weird when it turns out that the most important people in his life are his agent and his lawyer. Despite all the many evasions against Manchester United, it is clear that Pogba wants more money, and a lot, from the club.

His agent Mino Raiola, who passed away earlier this year, has become a well-known figure in world football. His ability to squeeze money for himself and his clients made him toxic, but his clients worshiped him. He is reported to have earned €27m by facilitating Pogba’s move from Juventus back to Manchester. Pogba’s lawyer Rafaela Pimenta worked with Raiola and now runs the late Dutchman’s empire.

Key scene – Pogba asks Raiola if United have made a new offer to keep him at the club. “Yes,” Rayola says. “They absolutely want you to stay. For me, the proposal doesn’t reflect that.” The offer is 350,000 euros per week. An outraged Pogba describes the offer as “nothing”.

For a player who never lived up to his potential, this statement is staggering. But this is the reality of how football works, and it’s instructive.

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