Soccer-Pirlo upstaged by Juve heir apparent Pogba


Nov 10 (Reuters) - Playmaker Andrea Pirlo was upstaged by the player who could eventually take up his mantle at Juventus when Paul Pogba scored a spectacular third goal in their 3-0 win over Napoli on Sunday.

With Juventus leading 1-0 and Napoli threatening to equalise, 34-year-old Pirlo brought down the house at the Juventus stadium when he fired a viciously dipping free kick over the defensive wall to score from nearly 30 metres.

If Juventus fans though it could not get better than that, they were in for a surprise as Frenchman Paul Pogba, 14 years Pirlo's junior, scored an even better goal.

Collecting a pass around 30 metres from goal, he flicked the ball up then volleyed an unstoppable shot past hapless Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

"The coaching staff always tell me I have a good shot," Pogba said in a post-match television interview. "Sometimes the ball ends up in the stands and sometimes it goes in, but I have to try."

Pirlo, whose role as a deep-lying playmaker makes him a rarity in modern football, has revitalised his career and Juventus since joining the club at the start of the 2011/12 season, guiding them to successive Serie A titles.

Although he still sprays passes around the pitch with unerring accuracy and is remarkably sprightly, Juventus know he cannot go on forever and Pogba is seen as the leading candidate to take over his role.

When Pogba left Manchester United for Juventus just over a year ago, it was a move which seemed to upset everybody.

United were unhappy he had turned his back on them and many Juve fans had wanted the club to sign Italian teenager Marco Verratti, who is now with Paris St Germain.

Tall and fleet-footed, Pogba is a more physical presence than Pirlo and more likely to pop up in the opposition's penalty area.

"My role is to play where the coach wants," said Pogba. "The coach likes me to go forward because I have physical strength and can score with either foot or with my head."

The question now is whether Juve can afford to keep him.

"I am trying to think what will happen if we get a massive offer in two or three years' time, will we be able to retain him?" club president Andrea Agnelli said during the Leaders in Football conference in London last month.

"I don't think at the moment we have the (financial) strength to retain such a player." (Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

What to Read Next