Paul Pogba expressed his pride at seeing Antoine Griezmann establish himself as one of the leading strikers in the world as speculation mounts that the two could soon be playing together at Manchester United as well as France.
Griezmann has been linked with a big-money switch to Old Trafford either in the January transfer window or this summer, having lit up LaLiga and the Champions League since joining Atletico Madrid two-and-a-half years ago.
He initially struggled to impose himself under manager Diego Simeone, but Pogba has revealed his compatriot’s hard work has paid off, with Griezmann named in the final three for The Best FIFA Men’s Player Award.
The pair are friends off the pitch and played central roles in helping France to the Euro 2016 final on home soil, with Griezmann finishing as the tournament top-scorer with six goals.
“I’m very proud of him. I know what he’s been through,” Pogba said in an interview with FIFA.
“When he arrived at Atletico Madrid the first year, he wasn’t playing all the time, he was on the bench. He talked to me, saying he was frustrated, that it was hard as he wasn’t playing.
— Antoine Griezmann (@AntoGriezmann) January 5, 2017
“After that he kept working hard, and now he’s one of the three nominees for The Best award. I’m very happy for him, especially to see a French player doing so well.”
Griezmann will vie with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi for the award on January 9, the two players who have had a stranglehold on the honour since 2008.
Pogba believes their reign is not unbreakable, though, saying: “Of course, there are other players who can do that.
“We have Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) at Manchester United. Even he could do it. He’s 35 years old, but the way he’s playing, the way he’s scoring goals, you can see that he’s been in the top level for more than 10 years.”
Pogba himself was named in the 23-man shortlist but revealed he would not be satisfied until he collects the award.
He said: “I’m still far away. It’s good to be in the top 10, five or three but that’s not really what I’m about. If I’m in the top three, I want to be the number one – so that means I’m still very far away.”