Manchester United's Paul Pogba might not start for France in Russia - Frank Leboeuf
Former France international Frank Leboeuf is not sure that Paul Pogba will earn a place in the starting XI for Les Bleus at the 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer.
Pogba, 25, was whistled throughout France's 3-1 friendly win against Italy last Friday, particularly when he was substituted for Steven N'Zonzi in the 86th minute.
After the match, France boss Didier Deschamps backed the Manchester United midfielder, but added he needed to raise his level of play ahead of the summer showcase in Russia.
And Leboeuf, who won the World Cup with France in 1998, has called Pogba's first-choice status with his country anything but certain just 10 days before the team plays their first group-stage match against Australia.
"He's under lots of pressure and he's been heavily criticised [in the media]," Leboeuf said on ESPN FC TV. "I don't think he's going to start against the United States on Saturday and I'm not sure he's going to start in the World Cup. [Corentin] Tolisso is above him on the left side. I think [Blaise] Matuidi is above him.
"I mean [he] has the talent, but we don't see it for the national team for the past two or three years. Pogba talks about winning the Ballon d'Or and put himself in the situation where right now he cannot [back up] what he says.
"I think he's a good guy and I think he has the talent, but he puts too much pressure on himself saying he wants to be the Ballon d'Or, that he was the key of the national team, that he wants to be the No. 1. Just don't say anything, just work hard."
Leboeuf went as far as to say that Pogba, who drew the ire of his club boss Jose Mourinho at times during the last Premier League campaign, was the worst player on the field during the friendly against Italy and called on him to react to prove his doubters wrong.
He said: "You can [say] the words if you show on the pitch that you are the best, but otherwise just be quiet and work hard. We don't like that in France. [If you] talk you have to produce."
As for France's chances at winning the World Cup this summer, Leboeuf had his doubts due in large part to some of the talented teams they'd likely have to overcome to lift the trophy.
However, he did back his 1998 teammate Deschamps as the man to pull the team together to help recreate the magic that helped France win their only World Cup title in the country's history.
"Personally, I don't think we can win because I think some national teams are better than us," Lebouef said. "A magical thing can happen, but I think there are lots of little [missing] details in that team that makes me think it's going to be very hard comparing to Spain or Brazil especially.
"Yes, I think people think that Deschamps is still the man to handle all the fantastic players, but you know there was a story last week about Zinedine Zidane leaving Real Madrid and immediately people say he wants to [take charge] of the national team. That puts a lot of pressure on Didier's shoulders, but he has the experience [to handle] that.
"He knows [like in 1998] you need a squad to work together and he wants to teach that to the players. And the players really like him. In France we are always unsatisfied, but I'm pretty sure Didier is the one that can bring something special to that squad."
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