Paul Pogba handed four-year ban confirmed: Where did it go wrong for the Juventus midfielder?

Paul Pogba has received a four-year ban by the Italian anti-doping authorities that could end the Juventus midfielder's Serie A career if he fails with an intended appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Juventus star Paul Pogba‘s career has suffered a significant blow after Italy’s national anti-doping tribunal (NADO) confirmed they have imposed a four-year ban from football, backdated to September 2023 when a drug test after the Bianconeri’s first game of the 2023/24 Serie A campaign uncovered elevated levels of testosterone in his system.

The 2018 World Cup winner will turn 31 in March 2024 and has struggled since returning to the Turin giants during the summer of 2022, appearing just 12 times in all competitions for the Old Lady because of injury, and the length of suspension not only exceeds his current contract but makes a return at 34-years-old extremely difficult.

Paul Pogba playing for Juventus against Bologna. [@juventusfc]

However, the former Manchester United midfielder has insisted he will appeal the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but the ruling comes on the back of a second sample provided to the anti-doping office in October.

In a statement released shortly after the ruling, Pogba said that “everything I have built in my professional career has been taken away from me,” and would “never knowingly or deliberately,” use banned substances and that, “when I am free of legal restrictions, the full story will become clear.”

Did the decline of Paul Pogba start at Manchester United?

After leaving Manchester United for nothing in 2012, Pogba made 178 appearances during four years with Juventus, as he won four Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia trophies and reached the Champions League final with the Bianconeri, resulting in the Premier League club shelling out a then-world record transfer fee of €105m to take him back.

The Frenchman initially showed flashes of brilliance but struggled to consistently deliver performances worthy of the price tag or because of the expectation that it brought, yet won the Europa League and League Cup in his first season and became a World champion the second. It was a return to the top of English football that supporters really craved, though, and their big name acquisition faced heavy criticism from both fans and pundits.

A failing out with coach Jose Mourinho led to Pogba admitted to a period of depression whilst in Manchester and, as goals and assists became as infrequent as appearances, eventually ran down his contract to return to Turin amidst a police investigation, with him the victim of an alleged blackmail plot by an organised crime gang.

Paul Pogba playing for Juventus against Empoli. [@juventusfc]

What does the future hold for Paul Pogba?

If CAS upholds the ban, it not only derails his career but tarnishes his reputation as a role model for a generation of footballs who looked on in awe of his supreme talents, but doesn’t quite leave the void in the midfield for club and country it might once have.

Pogba missed the 2022 World Cup through injury and most of his first season back at Juventus, therefore, if you add the last 18 months to the four years he will now sit rusting on the sidelines, more than half a decade has gone past with minimal on the pitch involvement.

The Bianconeri are unlikely to commit on a decision until CAS has heard the appeal, but already mutually agreed to cut his €7.5m-a-year salary and have the option to cancel his contract that runs until the end of the 2025/26 campaign, but few will offer him one last contract at 35. Not even a cash-rich Saudi Pro League club or a side in the MLS looking for a social media boost.

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