Pogba can be France's tour de force, says Neil Humphreys
Why France need their rising star to shine brightest
On the eve of the biggest tournament of his life, Paul Pogba recalled the day he turned down a football dictator.
In 2012, the lanky French kid said "no" to Sir Alex Ferguson, dismissing the demands of Old Trafford's emperor to join Juventus.
Even at 19, Pogba spoke his mind. Now his body has caught up.
Euro 2016 is about to bear witness to a ferocious combination of will and skill.
In a week when the world mourned a cocky black athlete who once shook up the world, another promises to do the same.
As with most things the assured midfielder does, Pogba's timing is exquisite.
In the early hours of tomorrow morning (Singapore time), France will pull back the curtain not only on Euro 2016, but also on a fractured country seeking to heal itself.
Emmanuel Petit speaks passionately about Les Bleus' profound achievement in uniting a nation with their World Cup-winning exploits on home soil in 1998 and Pogba is perfectly placed to repeat the trick.
The son of Guinean parents proudly stands his ground. In a telling comment, he remarked that whether it's Ferguson or Barack Obama, he'll say what he thinks.
He's blind to colour, devoted only to his craft and the French cause.
As Didier Deschamps' preparations for the opening game against Romania suffered from those undignified accusations of racism by both Karim Benzema and Eric Cantona, the coach at least knew that he was blessed with a unifying force of nature.
Pogba promises to do so much more than boss central midfield. He's a poster boy for Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité, the physical embodiment of the values championed by the host nation.
His country needs him. His coach needs him. And Euro 2016 certainly needs him.
Luckily, Pogba doesn't do shyness. His irrepressible ego is matched only by his ability to live up to his own billing.
The 23-year-old speaks often of his lofty ambition to become a "new midfielder", a flawless, sleek design that defends, attacks, scores, assists, wins tackles and headers and leads those around him.
He intends to incorporate the finer qualities of Zidane, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Messi, Iniesta, Pirlo and Scholes, as if tinkering in a midfielder's lab until he's satisfied with the Frankenstein monster that snarls back at him in the mirror.
He talks as he plays. There are no limits to his ambition, once again evoking warm memories of the Louisville Lip, as if the braggart's baton has been symbolically passed from Ali to Pogba just in time for the tournament.
He leaves others to discuss his weaknesses. Negativity slows him down. He hasn't got time to bleat.
The record of four Italian league titles in four years with Juventus barely satisfies his greed for glory.
An insatiable hunger remains, a hole where a Champions League or international trophy should be, along with a nagging suspicion that he can't quite replicate his club form on the international stage.
Pogba dominates in a one-team league. His long, muscular frame allows him to drift away from Serie A opponents like a ghostly gazelle. In Italy, his superior athleticism suffices. He can win on cruise control.
In a French jersey, the midfielder has teased with glimpses of his colossal talent. He dominates in periods. He doesn't yet dominate, period.
At the World Cup, his relationship with Blaise Matuidi was still a work in progress, with Pogba very much the junior partner.
Tomorrow morning, the pair will step out on an equal footing, the French apprentice replaced with a couple of midfield masters.
With N'Golo Kante possibly just behind to provide defensive cover and Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet on either flank, Pogba will be truly liberated for the first time.
But the freedom brings greater responsibility. Pogba must shake off the inconsistency that remains an asterisk beside his name.
His World Cup campaign was slightly hindered by those lapses of concentration, dismissed at the time as a lack of maturity, with too much expected of an inexperienced kid.
But the boy grew into a monstrous presence, a formidable midfielder with an unshakeable belief in his ability.
Everyone in France expects Pogba to do his duty, but none more so than the man himself.
He knows he's a genuine superstar in the making, the Frenchman who would be king. He hopes to confirm his coronation on home soil.
With the tournament likely to be played in the shadow of intense security and uncertainty, the host nation could use an uplifting distraction like Pogba.
He really could shake up the world. But Euro 2016 will do nicely for now.