Okay! Paul Pogba shouts, smashing his hands together. "Let's have some fun!" The genius midfielder who nearly has it all is marching through his cozy mansion here in the ritziest of Manchester's suburbs, past his technicolor fish tank. Looks like there are some Siamese fighting fish in there. Maybe a couple of fantail guppies? He calls them Pogfish. Except for the sea star; that one's called Rafstar. And when one of the exotic fish inside Paul Pogba's aquarium is sick, the others poke at it, encouraging it back to good health. Also, sometimes, the fish eat each other!
A French video crew is on its way out the front door, and a sprawling photoshoot is prepping all over the damn place: The lighting rigs and the craft services and the stylists and the racks and racks of luxurious tracksuits combust into some sort of British movie-lot hideaway. At the foot of Pogba's stairs, an almost life-sized faux-taxidermied lion keeps watch over us all, a match ball underneath one paw.
Out in the driveway, a young woman in house shoes picks her way carefully over electric cables, ferrying along a tiny Yorkshire terrier whom everyone greets with a delighted squeal. Rafaela, the do-everything agent, tends to the mess inside. At one point, with earned hyperbole, she shouts down someone requesting even more of Pogba's time: "It's a complete chaos here! A person who has to leave for two months needs time to make his bed, no?!"
Pogba himself remains pretty chill. One of the dozen or so anonymous crew members who is in his home, carrying around some piece of cumbersome equipment or another, unhelpfully points out to him that "there's a lot of people in your house."
"Yeah!" Pogba cracks. "Don't you break anything!"
You have to be careful in P/P Arena—an actual indoor turf field, goals and all, smack in the middle of the house. The sides of the field are decorated with dramatic murals of Pogba mid-action; its ceiling is lined with zigzag laser beam bolts. Throughout the mansion, the branding rolls on: There's a P/P gold-and-black foosball table and P/P embroidered pillows; on a counter in front of the flatscreen, an unopened box reads "P/P watch 1/1." Tall black doors come with long crystalline handles.
My favorite bit of extravagance, though, is a side bathroom. It has an all-black toilet and a light fixture that, unlike the hanging orb-things or dangling silver stick-things found throughout the rest of the place, resembles—believe me—a perfect '80s sci-fi alien cocoon. It looks like it should be dripping with otherworldly fluid and ready to hatch into the monster that murders us all. Instead, it automatically clicks on when you walk into the room.
Paul Pogba is 25 years old, and you might not think he's as good as he looks—that he hasn't broken free of everything he's supposed to be, that he doesn't deserve to celebrate quite yet. But the young man has dough, and he's spending it exactly how he wants, and I am very, very happy for him. He's wearing black denim shorts and a blue denim vest with vaguely Basquiat-style hearts and scribbles. On his feet are a pair of sock-sneakers—Adidas, of course. He's one of their international poster boys. The laces dangle pointlessly loosely; they're almost off the shoe altogether. I don't quite know what to tell you: It looks extremely cool, and I immediately consider if I could go home, spend a little too much money and pull it off myself.
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A few years back, Pogba made a public plea for a thief who had stolen a pair of his Louboutin sneakers to return them. As we sit down, that's the first thing that comes to my mind: "Did you ever get the Louboutins back?" No, he reports, chagrined.
"Those shoes are stories. It was my first time to buy some expensive shoes, you know? So for like one week, I was thinking. I was feeling so bad because it's like, 'Wow, it's so expensive. I cannot do this.' Then I was like"—Pogba drops his voice into a focused whisper—"'All right, let's do it.' So I bought two pairs at once, and I kept them because of the story! And they came to my house, and they robbed me. They took my Louboutins. They always know to take the best things."
To this day, Pogba says, he still has some anxiety when splashing out. "I try to remind myself that, 'Come on, you got it,'" he says. "But I check my bank account [before a big purchase]. I don't wanna end up with no money. I try to do the right thing. Help the poor, help your family. That's what God wants. That's what makes me feel happy. You can't worry too much about the clothes or the aquarium or whatever."
He waves at his pescatarian pals. "It's nice, to see the fishes and stuff like that. It's cool. I really like it. But all this material stuff, at the end of the day, when you die, they stay."