Paul vs Florentin - The Pogba Brothers Have Forged Very Different Paths
Throughout history, sport has been littered with great sibling rivalries; Serena and Venus Williams, Eli and Peyton Manning, Alastair and Johnny Brownlee and, of course, the Undertaker and Kane.
Tonight, at Old Trafford, Paul Pogba, the world's most expensive footballer, regular France international and Stormzy's best mate will line up opposite his older brother, Florentin, a 26-year-old Guinea international who cost St. Etienne £450,000.
The youngest Pogba brother can boast a social media following of over 20 million people, a weekly wage just shy of £300,000 and his own emoji. Florentin, on the other hand, pockets £17,000 per week and is at his most visible on social media when he makes a cameo appearance in one of his younger brother's Instagram posts.
The pair, alongside Florentin's twin brother Mathias, have come a long way since spending their childhood tearing up the streets of Residence la Renardiere in Roissy-en-Brie - just on the outskirts of Paris.
While Paul was cutting his teeth as part of Manchester United's youth academy and lifting the 2011 FA Youth Cup, Florentin was forging a career with Sedan in the French second division. His career would hit an upwards trajectory shortly afterwards, with St. Etienne parting with close to half a million pounds for his services, a fee his younger, more prodigious brother could almost afford with a week's wages, nowadays.
Florentin has enjoyed a steady, albeit less glamorous career than his younger brother. Image: PA
As Florentin toiled to make an impression with 'Les Verts', Paul was trading Manchester for Turin in a controversial move from United to Juventus. It was a transfer that sparked outrage among United supporters and in the intervening four years between the French midfielder's departure and return to Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson's management of a teenage Pogba was consistently called into question. How could the Scotsman, usually so astute at identifying and nurturing world class talent from a young age, allow one of the most exciting teenage talents in world football to leave the club for next to nothing so he could thrive at a continental rival?
Credit: Instagram/Paul Pogba
It was Ferguson's decision to prefer a 36-year-old, recently unretired Paul Scholes to the raw talent of Pogba during the Premier League title run in of 2012 that convinced the 19-year-old Frenchman that a spot in Antonio Conte's starting XI was more beneficial for his development.
Four years and four Serie A titles later, Pogba's decision was proved correct when United shelled out a record £89m to bring him back to Manchester. Where once there was potential, there was now a complete midfielder who had developed under the learning tree of Pirlo, Khedira, Vidal and Marchisio.
The master and the apprentice. Image: PA
Adidas released a video of Pogba dabbing alongside Stormzy, both adorned in new United kits, to announce football's biggest ever transfer, having signed the former Juventus man to a monstrous sponsorship deal.
Florentin, meanwhile, has become a semi regular fixture in Christophe Galtier's starting XI's over the past couple of years but the closest he's come to a move to England was two years ago when L'Equipe linked him with a move to Aston Villa. Given Villa's fortunes since then, the Guinea defender is likely relieved nothing materialised. His twin brother, Mathias, who will be watching on from the stands at Old Trafford alongside their mother Yeo, did spend time with Wrexham, Crewe Alexandria and Crawley Town in the lower leagues of English football before making a move to Partick Thistle and then Sparta Rotterdam.
Mathias Pogba, formerly of Partick Thistle, will be watching his two brothers do battle from the stands, tonight. Image: PA
Head-to-head competition between the two has been non existent since Florentin dealt his younger sibling a defeat at the ping pong table, with the St. Etienne defender claiming in an interview, "I beat him (Paul) at table tennis. After that we did not play other sports together." However, with the sibling rivalry set to be renewed at Old Trafford tonight, who will emerge victorious?
When asked for his prediction regarding tonight's Europa League clash, Mathias remained diplomatic and impartial in his answer, "Manchester seem stronger. But Saint-Etienne have made a dent in the Europa League and they will be over-motivated. In the return leg, it will be balanced." However, Mathias continued by saying the result of the match did not actually bother him as it is his dream to see his two brothers playing against each other.
"Personally, this is the biggest dream I have. I think my brothers have the same. This is the most beautiful thing that could happen to me. Whatever the team, it does not matter."
Florentin has chosen to mark the occasion by outdoing his brother in the haircut stakes, commemorating the match by having the numbers six and 19 shaved into each side of his head, denoting each player's shirt number with their respective clubs. While the atmosphere may be friendly approaching the match, come kick off, brotherhood will be put to one side as European success comes into focus.
The numbers 6 and 19 either denote the Pogba brothers' respective squad numbers or Florentin is a massive Rey Mysterio fan. Images: PA
Jose Mourinho has stated that he believes Yeo Pogba will be hoping for a draw, but both the United boss and Christophe Galtier will be hoping one Pogba brother is leaving the Theatre of Dreams despondent at the final whistle.
Will it be the 23-year-old prodigy, the four time Serie A champion, 2013 European Golden Boy, veteran of a Champions League and European Championship final and serial secret handshake specialist who will claim family bragging rights or will Florentin finally step out of the shadows and into the spotlight?