The World Cup-winning Frenchman looks to elite performers from other sports to help him scale new heights
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has admitted taking inspiration from elite performers outside of football, with Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and Muhamed Ali among those the World Cup winner has looked up to.
The France international could not wish for better role models than those on his three-man list, with all-time greats from NFL, basketball and boxing raising bars of individual excellence to heights few can dream of matching.
Pogba is eager to cement his own legacy alongside iconic figures from across the sporting spectrum, with the 28-year-old looking to take as many lessons as possible from a former heavyweight champion and those with multiple Super Bowl and NBA Finals rings.
What has been said?
Red Devils star Pogba, who is in the process of chasing down a Europa League winners’ medal this season, told UEFA’s official website: “I think all sports have aspects in common, and mental strength is one of them.
“What you see from the outside is that athletes earn bags of money and that they’re famous and recognised all over the world, but what you usually don’t see is the work that they put in off the pitch, and that’s the most important aspect to me. You don’t see their family problems or their everyday problems either.
“They still manage to be on the pitch, to perform well and to be the best; they manage to keep working and be the best for another two, three, even 10 years, or throughout a whole career. That’s what mental strength is, and that’s what all sportspeople and I can draw inspiration from.
“Tom Brady was just an example to really show people that, despite his age, he was still up to the challenge. He changed franchises but still won, which means that it’s possible to do so; wanted to show people that you could still succeed after changing clubs. He never gives up.
“I have another example of a personal inspiration for me: Michael Jordan. I think that most of us already know his story, and his leadership and work ethic really have been an inspiration to me.
“You also have to be selfish, so to speak, because you have to be at least a little bit selfish and think of yourself in order to be the best. That means that, after a training session, if your friends call you to go out, you need to think of yourself, refuse it and go and train more instead.
“You want to take the last shots, like [Michael Jordan] did, and you always want to win. That requires extraordinary mental strength, and it’s a great source of inspiration for me.
“Muhammad Ali is also an inspiration for me. In his day, he was one of the youngest heavyweights – just like Mike Tyson after him – to be crowned world champion. All of those people are inspirations because of their daily work ethic.
“They push themselves. They might fall or lose, but they keep going, they come back stronger and they never give up. That’s important to me.”
What has Pogba achieved?
A World Cup win with France in 2018 marks the highlight in Pogba’s career to date. He has, however, enjoyed considerable success at club level, despite becoming a divisive character with United during a second spell at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils have won the League Cup, Europa League and Community Shield with Pogba.
Prior to returning to England in 2016, a four-year stint with Juventus saw the playmaker collect four Serie A titles and a couple of Coppa Italias during his time in Turin.
Pogba is now up to 200 appearances for United across his two spells and, having enjoyed a return to form and fitness this season, is playing his way into contention for a new contract with the Red Devils.