PARIS – French fans pinning their hopes on Paul Pogba being the talismanic midfielder leading them to European Championship glory on home soil may have to bank on someone else.
Among the world's best players and valued at 100 million euros, Pogba shines for Juventus with driving runs and spectacular goals, but rarely plays with such panache for France because coach Didier Deschamps prefers him in a far more disciplined role.
"People expect too much from Paul," Deschamps said. "People can't accept any middle ground ... but he's not going to score three goals every game."
France traditionally relied upon a No. 10 — or playmaker — for its success.
Zinedine Zidane scored two goals in the 1998 World Cup final when France beat Brazil 3-0, and the present Real Madrid coach also inspired France to reach the 2006 final. Host France won the Euro in 1984, with Michel Platini scoring nine goals in five games.
But the 23-year-old Pogba is not the same category of player.
"He is useful to the team because he's a midfielder, not a No. 10," Deschamps said, putting it bluntly.
The paradox between Pogba's dynamic performances for Juve — 20 goals in the past two seasons — and his less expansive play for France is as striking as his inventive, razor-crafted haircuts.
His last goal for France was two years ago, and his return of five in 31 matches is substandard for a vastly talented, incredibly athletic player who is strong in the air and has a superb long shot.
Much of that is down to Deschamps, the relentlessly hard-working midfield captain in France's victorious World Cup and Euro sides of '98 and 2000.
"(Pogba's) technical ability is well above average," Deschamps said. "But he's not here to bring the crowd to their feet every time he's on the ball."
Such a statement will hardly have French fans salivating ahead of Friday's opening game against Romania, but Deschamps wants Pogba to play more safely.
When France beat Cameroon 3-2 in a recent friendly, Pogba was criticized for pushing up too much and leaving France's defense exposed. He played far better in last weekend's 3-0 win against Scotland, hitting the post with a free kick, but lackluster Scotland offered no threat.
France's other Group A opponents at Euro 2016 are Albania and Switzerland, meaning Pogba faces little competition in midfield until the knockout stages.
Better sides such as Germany and Spain are lethal on the break when teams lose possession, meaning that Pogba's urge to push up and dribble his way out of trouble could prove problematic.
That's why Deschamps talks about "middle ground" when speaking about Pogba, because his aim is not to make him stand out but to use his considerable abilities for what's best for his team.
Pogba needs to control his temper, too.
Early in his career, his fiery personality came to the fore, even if it meant going up against hot-tempered former Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson.
After joining United from unheralded French side Le Havre in 2009, Pogba made only three substitute appearances in the league over two seasons. He left for Juve in 2012, later saying that Ferguson had gone back on his word about playing him more.
Pogba was furious when Brazilian right back Rafael was selected to play in midfield ahead of him for a league game against lowly Blackburn in December, 2011.
"Paul Scholes had retired, Darren Fletcher was injured. There was no one left to play in midfield," Pogba told Canal Plus in an interview. "And there was Rafael in midfield and I was disgusted."
But early in his Juve career, then coach Antonio Conte publicly reprimanded Pogba for turning up late to training several times.
On the pitch, too, his recklessness threatened his international career.
He was sent off on his second appearance for France, picking up a second yellow card against Spain for arguing with the referee following a crude challenge on Xavi.
At the 2014 World Cup, he was lucky not to be sent off in France's opener against Honduras, and Deschamps took him off after 57 minutes — fearing he would get red carded.
But the overriding message is that Pogba has to trade some of his skill for the sake of team balance — an even more pressing necessity given France's weakened defense.
Without center backs Raphael Varane, Kurt Zouma, Jeremy Mathieu and Mamadou Sakho, Deschamps is massively short on defensive cover.