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I'VE KNOWN PAUL SINCE WE WERE 16... HE'S ALWAYS BEEN A SHOW-OFF! Says former team-mate Doucoure.

Byline: MIKE WALTERS @MIKEWALTERSMGM

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE has branded Paul Pogba a "show-off" - but reckons his brashness is great for football.

Watford's midfield heartbeat goes head-to-head with World Cup winner Pogba when Manchester United visit the unbeaten Hornets tomorrow.

Doucoure, who played with Pogba as a teenager in French age-group teams as far back as 2009, admits his former team-mate has acquired a "superstar" dimension since becoming the world's most expensive player at PS89million in 2016 and scoring in France's final triumph in Russia.

Last season, United legend Paul Scholes warned Pogba was falling into the trap of thinking his price tag gave him a licence to "show off his talent" instead of becoming a world-class box-to-box midfielder.

And Reds boss Jose Mourinho claimed the World Cup was a "perfect habitat" for Pogba to unfurl his best form - which he has only produced for United intermittently.

But Doucoure, a PS6m snip with his own ambitions of a call-up to the senior France squad, says Pogba's outgoing personality is "natural exuberance" which brightens the game.

He said: "I've known Paul since I played with him in the French Under-16 team and he was, physically, the same as he is today because he was in advance of everyone. Yes, he liked to show off a little bit, but he's a very nice guy, very natural "Today there is a different dimension because Paul is a superstar, but as a character he has always been the same - he likes to laugh, he likes to speak about everything. We still speak sometimes, and I sent him a message to congratulate him on winning the World Cup.

"It's always great to be on the same pitch as him, you want to be better than him. It's one of my dreams to be called up by the national team and to play for France with him.

Asked to clarify his "show-off " comment, and whether he was referring to Pogba's manner on or off the pitch, Doucoure replied: "Both - but I think he has this personality because he is good on the pitch.

"It's good for him. It's good to have footballers with charisma - I think players like Paul, and Benjamin Mendy as well, bring a lot of personality and show off sometimes."

Watford's record start - played four, won four - has left ludicrous optimists speculating they could repeat unfancied Leicester's feat of winning the title in 2016.

But one cornerstone of their 100 per cent record has been timekeeping, with skipper Troy Deeney revealing players are docked PS100 per minute if they are late for training.

Javi Gracia's rule has been worth thousands of pounds to the players' fines kitty, and Doucoure (above) admitted: "I am not always on time. If I am late, I pay like everyone else.

"But we are in the best condition because everyone had a good preseason, everyone came back with a good mentality, nobody complained about anything.

"Everyone wants to finish in the top 10, I think that is realistic."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 14, 2018
Words:498
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