The Paul Pogba story: Peaking prematurely, plagued by injuries and a failed rebirth at Juventus

Paul Pogba's comeback at Juventus promised so much, but it looks as though it could well end without delivering anything at all. What could have been a fairytale return has turned into a nightmare for everybody involved.

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When Juventus made the move to bring Paul Pogba back to the Allianz Stadium on a free transfer in the summer of 2022, it was tempting to look at the move as an attempt to continue what both parties considered to be the unfinished business they shared.

The romance of Pogba‘s comeback in Turin had many thinking that, following some troubled seasons, he could pick up when he had left off before swapping Juventus for Manchester United in 2016 for what was at the time a world-record fee of around €105 million.

So far, though, his second spell with Juventus has been littered with injuries, controversy and eventually the news of a non-negative doping test taken on the opening matchday of the 2023/24 Serie A season. And all of this is evidence that the 30-year-old is going through the latest turbulent chapter that could even bring his career to a premature end.

Paul Pogba in action for Juventus. (@juventusfcen)

What went wrong for Paul Pogba at Manchester United?

While a 2018 World Cup win with France and Europa League glory with Manchester United were noteworthy achievements, it’s hard not to look at Pogba‘s move to Old Trafford as being the beginning of his decline.

After taking Serie A by storm during his five-year stint at Juventus, the Frenchman moved to England as a 23-year-old with the world at his feet. He was a midfielder who dominated games and that, rather impressively, gave the feeling of still having to reach his peak, as his mix of technique and physicality were unparalleled at that time.

Not only did Pogba fail to replicate his Juventus form with Manchester United, but there were a series of off-field issues that played against him as well, all while the Red Devils were enduring their most difficult era in most fans’ memories.

Repeated reported fallouts with coach Jose Mourinho just scratch the surface of a story that didn’t go according to the script, and Pogba was plagued by countless injuries that forced him to miss at least 20 games every season in his last three years at Old Trafford. Pogba became an unwanted burden that even a considerable percentage of the club’s own fans wanted rid of.

At the end of a six-season spell that should have marked Pogba‘s footballing prime, his hairstyles and injuries often, unfortunately, were what made headlines more than his on-field exploits.

Pogba’s failed rebirth at Juventus

Paul Pogba in action for Juventus. [@juventusfc]

But while many hoped that Pogba‘s return to Juventus would be the ideal step to revive his career, it didn’t take long for it to become clear that the demons of his harrowing English experience were making the trip to Italy with him, and they would continue to haunt him.

Even before the 2022/23 season was underway, in the midst of Juventus‘ pre-season, a knee injury hit Pogba. He opted for a controversial conservative therapy with a view to being available for the 2022 World Cup. It later became apparent in early September that going under the knife was the only solution.

The decision to delay the surgery meant the Frenchman missed the opening months of the campaign for Juventus, as well as the World Cup, meaning that the midfielder would play his first Serie A game of the season as late as February 2023. He ended the season with just six Serie A appearances.

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

In addition to a troubling injury record, more personal problems followed. There were serious and constant allegations coming from Mathias Pogba, Paul‘s brother, alleging attempted blackmail and that the player had hired a witch doctor to place a spell on Kylian Mbappe.

There was also coach Massimiliano Allegri‘s decision to exclude him from Juventus‘ Europa League squad against Freiburg for disciplinary reasons in March 2023, completing a sad season that led to questions of Pogba‘s future at the club, despite returning as their highest-paid player just months earlier.

Conversations around yet another injury suffered during Pogba‘s – albeit impressive – substitute appearance against Empoli at the beginning of the 2023/24 season were quickly replaced by the far worse news of Pogba’s doping test results due to higher-than-normal testosterone levels.

Now Pogba, provisionally suspended, is at risk of a long-term suspension and even contract termination from Juventus.

But while his suspension is still to be confirmed (pending further analysis), what is certain is that Pogba‘s heroics appear increasingly distant and harder to recall. Now, many are wondering if it is still worth investing in the rebirth of an expensive 30-year-old who reached his peak more than seven years earlier.

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