Paul Pogba’s expected return to Juventus has left Italian football both excited and curious.
It has been six years since the Frenchman departed Turin, but this summer a move back to his home near the Municipal Stadium is considered the most logical next step in a career consisting of only two teams: Manchester United and Juventus.
The relationship between Pogba and Juve is a love story worthy of a Shakespeare novel, with their emotional attachment influencing his decision to reject offers from elsewhere for a second stint with the Old Lady. As revealed in his new Amazon Prime documentary, the midfielder is ready to find his form again at a club where he feels affection from the fans.
Paul Pogba’s return to Juventus this summer has left Italian football both excited and curious
He no longer has the luxury of Andrea Pirlo alongside him in midfield this time around
Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport claim Pogba said no to Paris Saint-Germain because of his greater connection with Juve supporters. The boos Lionel Messi was subjected to in Paris scared him away from Ligue 1, meaning Serie A, where he previously felt loved and protected, is his preferred destination.
When he last plied his trade in Turin Pogba transitioned from boy to man and now, ahead of his return, he is desperate to rediscover the carefree spirit of the 20-year-old who previously dominated in Italy’s top flight. He wants to feel young again and get back the desire to play football without considering it merely a job.
In four years with Juve Pogba was capable of dominating any opponent in Serie A, so much so that players would fear his superiority in the tunnel beforehand and often leave the pitch embarrassed.
The 29-year-old is heading back to a league with less quality this time around, which will perhaps allow him to excel from the get-go in Massimiliano Allegri’s side. Yet, the striking contrast is that Pogba’s exit will not come as a blow in Manchester, whereas Juve are longing for his return after seeing their midfield deteriorate in the six years since his departure.
The relationship between Pogba and Juve is a love story worthy of a Shakespeare novel
Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal long gone
He remains a top player, but at the age of 29, and having suffered countless injury problems in his second United spell, Pogba must now prove he is capable of replacing Paulo Dybala and winning back the affection Juventus fans previously had for him.
The difference this time around, however, is that Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal will not be lining up next to him in the middle of the park.
Pogba was able to flourish at Juve alongside the aforementioned trio, operating on the left-hand side of a star-studded midfield diamond. Now, with either the number six or eight on his back, he will have to be the lightning rod of Allegri’s team.
Claudio Marchisio (left) and Arturo Vidal have also left the Turin club since he was last there
Manuel Locatelli (L) and Denis Zakaria (R) are the only men guaranteed to be alongside Pogba
Juve are in need of charismatic leaders and Pogba must prove that he has become one in his time away from the club. Though the problem is figuring out which players will support him.
Adrien Rabiot is in the final year of his contract, Arthur wants to leave and only Manuel Locatelli and Denis Zakaria are guaranteed to be part of this new tactical project.
Allegri has the task of choosing the young players who will fit around them; with Fabio Miretti, Nicolo Rovela and Nicolo Fagioli competing for one or two free slots. Blooding those youngsters into the team may help Pogba feel like a leader next season.
Massimiliano Allegri can make Pogba a leader of his new-look young Juve side next season
Bianconeri will forgive past comments
Pogba’s performances have been far too inconsistent since he returned to England, never giving the feeling of being at ease or regretting his four-year spell in Italy. Nevertheless, Pogba irked Juventus supporters for the negative comments about his time with the club after sealing his world-record return to Old Trafford in 2016.
‘I just came back home,’ he said at the time. ‘It was like I didn’t really leave – I just went on holiday! It was a great feeling to come back home.’
The Bianconeri faithful have never forgiven him for those words, but love is stronger than resentment and no one will hold the mistakes in the days after his separation from the club against him, especially after seeing Dybala join bitter rivals Inter.
After leaving for United in 2016 Pogba irked Juve fans by branding his time there a ‘holiday’
Mourinho mistakes can’t be repeated
The negative parable for Pogba at United began during Jose Mourinho’s reign as manager. Mourinho’s biggest problem was the role he assigned his £89million recruit with; asking him to combine defence and attack in a box-to-box role to mask the problems of a team lacking quality and tactical logic.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer initially provided a boost when he replaced Mourinho in December 2018, only to destroy Pogba’s personality by deploying him as a left winger in a 4-2-3-1.
Allegri has taken note of these mistakes and is aware that to get Pogba at his 100 per cent best he will need to avoid similar mistakes. The player was successful operating in the role Allegri and Antonio Conte chose for him at Juventus, with the pair proving themselves as great chess-masters able to shuffle their board and find the right tactical position for each star.
The Frenchman’s struggles at United began under the tumultuous reign of Jose Mourinho
But Juve boss Allegri has worked with him in the past and found a way to get him firing
Which Pogba will Juventus get?
Juventus’ greatest mistake would be hoping to re-sign the same player they offloaded for close to nine figures back in 2016. Paul has changed; improving psychologically, winning the 2018 World Cup with France and earning the status of a top player. Although on a physical level he has shown signs of decline.
Supporters are waiting for their first major signing of the summer, but it must be noted that he has only played 62 matches in the last three years, significantly less than the 82 Dybala managed in this timeframe. Such a statistic represents a concern for the club from a physical standpoint.
In the second chapter of his Turin love story Pogba wants to be the leader of a new cycle, something he never managed to achieve at United due to personal faults and a lack of confidence in negative moments.
Juve would be mistaken to hope they are getting the same player they sold for £89million
The returning star will likely operate as a wide attacking midfielder or just behind Dusan Vlahovic, yet the first task for Allegri will be pinning down his role in the side and ensuring he doesn’t become a wildcard covering every hole in midfield.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Allegri has already spoken with Pogba over the phone on a number of occasions to clarify that he intends to use him on the left of a three-man midfield, tasked with feeding into Vlahovic, attacking the spaces and pulling defenders out of position.
His last Old Lady outing
Pogba is currently enjoying a light holiday out in Miami, keeping tabs on the NBA season and completing some workouts with a personal trainer. His mind will certainly be fresh enough to recall the last time he pulled on a Juventus shirt.
That came in the 2016 Coppa Italia final, when Allegri’s men got the better of AC Milan – an omen of what will happen over the next year as Pogba and Co aim to pip the defending champions to this season’s Scudetto.