Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has declared that Paul Pogba 'belongs' at the very highest level alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar after the Frenchman went toe to toe with Barcelona in United's final tour game in America on Wednesday night.
A solitary first half goal from Neymar was the difference between the two sides at the FedExField in a narrow Barça win, United's first defeat this summer, but Mourinho was delighted that Pogba was able to match superstars who are so good 'there is nothing you can do' to stop them.
"With Messi and Neymar, there is only one [of each]. There are not two. Suarez, Iniesta, Pique, Ronaldo, Bale, Modric, Toni Kroos, there is only one of them. So they can only play for one club and not two," Mourinho commented after the final whistle (ManUtd.com).
"We cannot have them. They belong to the clubs. You can be working very hard tactically to improve your team, to improve your players, but some players are special and against that nature there is nothing you can do," he added.
"In the real matches you try to compensate the difference in quality with a certain tactical organisation, and with that you can win. In football it is possible for a team to be better than the sum of the parts. But the parts are amazing. Their relationship with the ball is amazing.
"You can argue about the occupation of space, tactics and compact blocks, but the player's relationship with the ball is still the most important thing. Even as an opponent on the bench like I am, it is beautiful to see the guys' relationship with the ball.
"Today, one of my players, Paul Pogba, showed the level. He showed that he belongs at that level."
Having faced both Real and Barça in recent days, Mourinho was reluctant to directly compare his team with the Spanish giants in terms of their level given the rarity of competitive meetings. But he was certainly satisfied considering the Clásico pair both fielded strong sides.
"For us to play against both in pre-season without pressure or being worried about a result, just trying to play the best we can, was very good for us," the boss explained.
"Both played with their best team. Barcelona did. Only Pique was on the bench. Real Madrid, only Ronaldo and Ramos didn't play. So it is very, very good for us to measure against them."