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The Pogmentary: Born Ready follows Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba.Courtesy of Amazon Prime

So here we come to roost: Canada’s men’s team will play at this year’s World Cup in Qatar, and Canada will be co-host of the 2026 World Cup with the United States and Mexico. There are plenty of soccer supporters in this country and they’re not unfamiliar with success, the women’s team being one of the best in the world for years.

Then there are those who are merely curious. They ask, what’s the fuss about? They ask, who are the truly best players in the world, and where are they? They wonder about the money and system that underlies top soccer.

The Pogmentary (streams on Amazon Prime Video) is new and offers some of the answers needed. It’s also a bizarre portrait of an enigma. It’s about Paul Pogba who, just a few years ago, was one of the hottest players on the planet and left one club in Italy to join a club in England, Manchester United, for the largest transfer fee in history. Thing is, it didn’t really work out, for the player and the club. It worked out for his agent and his lawyer, mind you.

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Pogba is Black, Muslim and French. He won a World Cup with France in 2018. His family emigrated to France from Guinea. A midfielder, he has shown astonishing skill for his country and occasional brilliance for his club teams. The documentary about him comes at a time when many Manchester United supporters want to see the back of him.

His history and relationship with the club is hard to believe, really. It doesn’t make sense unless you grasp the soccer ecosystem. As a teenager, in 2009, Pogba was persuaded to leave his club team in France, Le Havre, to join Manchester United’s youth team. Even then there was a fuss, with Le Havre claiming the move was underhanded, possibly illegal. In answer, United threatened to sue. At United Pogba flourished in the youth team for a while. At that time, United was probably the best club team in the world, and we see flashes of that Beckham era in the doc.

Then, United let Pogba go. He was good, possibly on the cusp of greatness, but he declined to sign a new contract and moved to Juventus in Italy. United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, expressed exasperation. At Juventus and playing for France, Pogba thrived. One of the best players in the game, was the label put on him. In 2016, United wanted him back, and paid a then-record €105-million to get him. Disappointment ensued. Now Pogba is probably on the move again. That’s what this beautifully made but bonkers portrait is about.

“Nobody reached out to help me. I did it all on my own,” Pogba says early on. Tell that to the numerous managers, trainers, colleagues and others who tried to make it work. He seems to have a lot of grievances, some petty and hard to understand. He claims that when injured, United didn’t support him. “They didn’t help me, they didn’t care and I had to go to my country’s team to feel better,” he says. Rather hard to believe, given United’s massive investment in him.

The Pogmentary is a bizarre portrait of an enigma.Courtesy of Amazon Prime

We see him at home with his wife and kids. He’s very cheerful, laid-back and grinning. He moseys around Manchester, growing nostalgic on the street where he first lived in the city. We see him delivering food to the homeless at night. “It’s not a big deal for me, but for them, it’s huge,” he says.

Is this staged? It all becomes especially strange when it emerges that the most important people in his life are his agent and his lawyer. For all the many evasions about Manchester United, it’s crystal clear that Pogba wants more money, and lots of it, from the club.

His agent, Mino Raiola, who died earlier this year, became a notorious figure in world soccer. His ability to squeeze money for himself, as well as his clients, made him toxic, but worshipped by clients. He reportedly earned €27-million in facilitating Pogba’s transfer from Juventus back to Manchester. Pogba’s lawyer, Rafaela Pimenta, worked with Raiola and now runs the late Dutchman’s empire.

The key scene is Pogba asking Raiola if United has made a new offer to keep him with the club. “Yes,” Raiola says. “They absolutely want you to stay. For me, the offer does not reflect that.” The offer is €350,000 a week. Pogba, outraged, describes the offer as “nothing.”

For a player who never fulfilled his potential, the assertion is mind-boggling. But it’s the reality of how soccer works, and educational.

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