Yves Bissouma was being hailed as the new Paul Pogba when he arrived at Albion in 2018.

It was not a comparison with which he was too comfortable.

Both French-speaking, powerful midfielders partial to eye-catching tricks and hairstyles.

Bissouma was a bit of a mystery man, although he had been mentioned in relation to Tottenham and Arsenal after his promising start to life at Lille.

But that was the word on this new boy on whom Albion – after that first season in the Premier League – had splashed out £14 million. He was like Paul Pogba.

Bissouma, in his first one-to-one media interview as an Albion player, addressed that when I put it to him in the media room at the club’s training complex.

The hitherto permanent grin and jaunty demeanour evaporated briefly as he mulled it over.

“I don’t take myself for someone I am not,” he said.

“I admire Paul Pogba but I’m Yves Bissouma, simple as that.

“I watch players like Pogba, who I really like. But my favourite player is Yaya Toure.

“He is a great example for me, the top. He inspires me a lot.

“We play the same role. We play the same position.

“I watch a lot of matches and if I see he isn’t in the team I’m disappointed. He is my example.”

Bissouma was informed he had just missed out on being part of Toure’s farewell at the Etihad, when champions Manchester City beat Albion 3-1 in a late-season midweek fixture.

Bissouma’s own farewell? Well, I think we knew the score, didn’t we, as he chased a couple of kids playfully across the pitch at the Amex when friends and family joined players at the end of the final game of last season.

As it turned out, none of us knew the last time he kicked a ball in an Albion shirt given he was replaced at half-time of that West Ham match.

But we know how he has grown as a player.

Despite the YouTube clips from those Lille days, Bissouma was pretty raw when he arrived four years ago.

He was not an overnight success. Thrown into midfield at Anfield, he played pretty well in general but suffered a costly loss of possession to James Milner just outside his own penalty area which led to the only goal of the game.

Welcome to the Premier League.

Chris Hughton did not, it seemed, fully trust him for some time.

Dale Stephens and Davy Propper governed in midfield.

And, besides, 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 with Pascal Gross tucked in behind the frontman, did not really suit Bissouma, certainly in those days.

Albion invested in a five-year deal for him and that has proved to be admirable foresight.

It turned out that Graham Potter made the best use of a Hughton signing. But, again, not immediately.

His first season under Potter came after a summer in which he had a procedure on a long-standing shoulder problem which dated back to his days playing barefoot at the Jean Marc Guillou Academy in Bamako.

As it turned out, he was just coming into his own at the time football, and life, stopped for lockdown.

A chaotic opening when he was thrown in at Sheffield United, was quickly booked and looked like a second yellow waiting to happen, developed into a very mature display.

He likewise impressed next time out on the road, at Wolves.

And then Covid called a halt to everything.

The passing of the midfield baton happened before empty stands.

By the time fans returned, Bissouma was running the midfield show - as seen on TV.

What we have seen from the Mali international for the last two seasons has been some of the best, most dynamic, midfield play any Albion fan has witnessed.

And that includes in the golden era of the late 1970s, early 1980s.

He has always been able to drive forward on the ball and be athletic around the pitch.

But he has become far more responsible and careful in possession.

It has felt like a case of less being more.

He reads and anticipates situations so quickly, getting him to the right place at the right time.

A good first touch and a smooth body feint help him suddenly turn congested cul-de-sacs into open roads.

Perhaps ironically, the one clip we had pretty much all seen before his arrival was of a searing free-kick at Toulouse which helped struggling Lille stay up just before he left for England.

That mid-range shooting is one area where it feels like he has room for development.

Well, that and cutting out the needless yellow cards which bugged him last season.

Get that right and he will be a complete midfielder.

Form dropped off for a short while last winter, as it will for any player at times.

Criticism at that time was, I would suggest, fair to a point but much of it went over the top.

He had just come back from AFCON.

Perhaps his dip in form back then should serve as an indication to what might happen to other players in the coming season as they return from Qatar.

He appeared to be a popular character around the camp.

He does very little media work. That early one-to-one, in which he spoke about the wrench of leaving home as a kid to join the prestigious Guillou Academy, was a rare treat.

The occasional pleasantry exchanged when our paths crossed at the entrance to the training ground of late suggested he remained far more comfortable speaking French - through a beaming smile, of course - than English, even four years on.

Now he follows Ben White to north London and, going back a bit, brings back memories of Bobby Zamora joining Tottenham from the Seagulls.

Withdean to White Hart Lane was a massive leap in 2003 but Zamora was ready and he bridged the gap.

The Amex to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in 2022 is less of a jump but it’s a step up in profile, demands, scrutiny and expectation, especially with Champions League football.

His timing feels right, as it did for Zamora.

He is good enough and ambitious enough to make it work.