Paul Pogba left Manchester United in 2012 before returning four years later after becoming a huge star at Italian giants Juventus who made a huge win with the midfielder
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For so long he was the one who got away. Paul Pogba played a vital role in the middle of the park for Juventus after leaving Old Trafford following a contract dispute.
The Italian side signed the Frenchman for free and watched as he began to fulfill the promise he had always shown, playing for the old lady in the Champions League final, while United struggled to be consistent at the top of Europe stand. Eventually, they bit the bullet and shelled out a club record £89m to bring back a then 23-year-old Pogba.
The midfielder returned to much fanfare with the social media pun #Pogback as United lured the Frenchman despite their lack of Champions League football. Juventus celebrated a £89million win after capturing the midfielder for nothing. Little did we know they would see the best of Pogba as the Frenchman hasn’t been able to consistently demonstrate the form he has shown in Serie A.
Then Juventus boss Guissepe Marotta has admitted that Pogba’s signing and departure is seen as his best deal. He said in a DAZN film: “If we look at the trips there and back, how someone arrived and how it went, it certainly has to be Pogba. He came for free and we sold him to the same club for 110 million. It’s an unusual thing, a unique thing in the world of football.”
A Juventus side without Pogba would invest their millions in signing Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli and the Argentine scored in the Champions League semi-finals as the Bianconeri reached another final in 2017. They would also take the national double again.
A failed move
In Manchester, meanwhile, expectations and reality were anything but compatible. Pogba returned in a 2-0 win over Southampton as he was met by heroes at Old Trafford. The Red Devils had signed Jose Mourinho and the Special One was buoyed by the arrival of Pogba.
He said at the time: “Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be an important part of the United team that I hope to build here for the future. He’s fast, strong, scores goals and reads the game better than many players much older than him.
“At the age of 23, he has the opportunity to make this position his own over many years. He is young and will continue to improve; he has a chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.” Very few of those comments would come to fruition.
A Manchester derby defeat in game four of the season exposed Pogba’s weaknesses in midfield and those flaws are still evident today as managers try and fail to fit the midfielder into their starting XI. The Frenchman would do anything but make the position his own. He has played at the base of midfield as a playmaker and eventually as a winger.
Now, after a stunning six years at Manchester, Pogba looks set to leave Old Trafford for nothing once his contract expires in just a few weeks. Talks about a new deal were put on hold months ago as both parties resigned to his exit. The Pogba transfer is a microcosm of United’s lately.
The Red Devils will lose as much as Juventus gained from Pogba – £89m. It’s not even like they have a bucket full of trophies to soften the blow. Two in fact, the last of which is Europa League 2017. Pogba scored in that latest win against Ajax but failed to lead United to more silver.
The frustration with Pogba on the pitch was only compounded by the drama off it. The player has constantly flirted with an Old Trafford exit and has expressed his views in the media which have created an unwanted distraction. In the summer of 2019, he spoke of possibly seeking a new challenge.
On the eve of a must-win Champions League clash against RB Leipzig in 2020, Pogba’s then-agent Mino Raiola spoke about his client’s time at Manchester being ‘over’ with Juventus a possible destination for the midfielder.
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Pogba was part of the Manchester side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2011 and while Sir Alex Ferguson was betting on big things, he was willing to let him go, citing Raiola as a big problem. He said: “Paul Pogba? He just had one bad agent, damn it.” Although he also says in his autobiography: “There are one or two football agents that I just don’t like and Mino Raiola is one of them.”
Pogba made seven appearances before United let him go on free in 2012. Although there was never any doubt about his talent and skills, their use was heavily criticized. The player was constantly defended by his managers, although he and Jose Mourinho started feuding before the Special One’s sacking.
The impact of off-field affairs is difficult to quantify, but from a financial and footballing perspective, Pogba’s second-place finish at Manchester was a failure. You can soon say that to Ronaldo, although he produced the goods on the pitch. United’s recruitment has long held them back and few are likely to remember the Frenchman’s move with great pride.
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