Paul Pogba is a “natural leader” for France despite the criticism received by the midfielder, says team-mate Blaise Matuidi.
Pogba claimed he is the “most criticised player in the world” after France started their World Cup campaign with a fortunate 2-1 defeat of Australia.
The Manchester United midfielder was involved in both goals, playing the pass that led to Antoine Griezmann’s penalty, and seeing his shot deflect in off Aziz Behich for the winner.
Despite his impact Pogba still faced criticism in the wake of an under-par Group C showing from Les Bleus, leading Matuidi to defend his colleague.
“For me, Paul is a natural leader,” Matuidi told a news conference on Monday.
“He is a leader of the game and also a leader outside.
“When he expresses himself, I can tell you that he is being listened to.
“He is a great player, he has shown it, we want to put Paul in the best position, we are behind him, and you [the media] expect him to score four goals in one game.
“He’s a midfielder and he’s already able to go beyond his role, Paul is one of the big guys.”
Pogba appeared to fire a barb at his critics with a social media post on Monday.
“Work in the shadow let people make noise,” Pogba wrote on Twitter.
And Benjamin Pavard, whose performance against Australia could put his France place at risk for the rest of the World Cup with right-back Djibril Sidibe building his fitness, backed Matuidi in offering support to Pogba.
“He is a very great player,” Pavard said. “He is a true leader. He is very important for the group.
“Paul always has nice words, he has a lot of experience at the highest level.”