Paul Pogba puts the team first and is a born leader, claims Didier Deschamps

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France coach Didier Deschamps has leapt to the defence of his World Cup “leader” Paul Pogba, describing him as a team player who has been misunderstood by some fans and the media.

Deschamps was the guest of honour at the FIFA Football Conference in London, where more than 300 international coaches, including England’s Gareth Southgate and Wales boss Ryan Giggs, gathered on Sunday to discuss lessons learned from this summer’s World Cup.

Asked how he got more out of Pogba in Russia than Jose Mourinho is managing to at Manchester United, the 49-year-old French said: “I think the rest of the world, and certainly in France, has an image of Paul Pogba that doesn’t really reflect who he is.

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“Another is that he arrived at the World Cup really prepared and he took on the mantle of leadership, on and off the pitch. He became a bit of a spokesman for the team and he can do that because he’s a good speaker.

“I’ve spoken to him about his relationship with the media and I think he’s been unfairly criticised in the past. That’s why there has been this aggressive vibe and he’s had this strained relationship.

“But criticism is part of the job and I think you learn to take that on board as you get more experienced. That’s what’s happened with him and I think he’s gained some respect. He joined us ready to become a world champion and he took the whole squad with him.”

Pogba, left, and team-mate Antoine Griezmann celebrate France's World Cup win
Pogba, left, and team-mate Antoine Griezmann celebrate France’s World Cup win (Owen Humphreys/PA)

And Pogba’s patchy club form has continued this season – superb one game, sloppy the next, while on Saturday he set up United’s opener only to lose the ball for Wolves’ equaliser.

Deschamps, however, was also asked about two of his players who have carried their summer form into the Premier League campaign: Chelsea pair Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kante.

Giroud, centre, and Kante, left, celebrate Chelsea's FA Cup success last season
Giroud, centre, and Kante, left, celebrate Chelsea’s FA Cup success last season (David Davies/PA)

On Giroud, he went further, saying the 31-year-old was France’s “pivot” and somebody whose usefulness you most notice “when he’s not on the pitch”.

The fact the former Arsenal striker did not score during the World Cup was not important to his boss.

“It’s true that he didn’t score but he was absolutely decisive in our approach play, he supported the defence, especially in the air, and he holds the ball up for his team-mates,” said Deschamps.

“You shouldn’t expect him to beat two or three players, that’s not what he’s there for. But he’s an extremely generous player and he’s very important to how we set up and our overall play.

Deschamps, left, appreciates the value of striker Olivier Giroud
Deschamps, left, appreciates the value of striker Olivier Giroud (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“The best reflection I can make is that he was in our starting XI after the first game (in Russia) – I think that’s the best evidence of my trust in him.”

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