So much was expected of Paul Pogba in his second spell at Manchester United. The Old Trafford outfit parted with a world record transfer fee of £89m. At the time, many at the club believed they could build around the French midfielder for years to come. Now, he has left United again as one of the most frustrating players in the club’s recent history.
Pogba wasted a large chunk of his career at Manchester United. While the Frenchman must shoulder some of the blame for how his time at Old Trafford panned out, the club was an unhealthy environment for Pogba. He is surely grateful to be free of United and a free agent on the open market.
Reports state Pogba is most likely to return to Juventus. The midfielder spent four successful years with the Turin club between 2012 and 2016. Pogba will be back in his comfort zone at a club he already knows well and under a manager that got the best out of him when they previously worked together.
However, Pogba doesn’t just need a new club. He needs a manager that can help him make up for lost time. Allegri and Pogba know each other, but will the former change the latter as a player? Pogba needs to be tested, and it’s not guaranteed that he will reach new heights for a Juve side that only finished fourth in Serie A last season.
At 29, Pogba has lost out on so much good coaching over the course of his career. At Manchester United, Jose Mourinho misunderstood the Frenchman and used him in a deep-lying role that never truly suited his skill set. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did a better job of putting Pogba in areas where he could influence games, but never gave him a supporting structure in the centre of the pitch.
“I just want the best for me,” Pogba explained when asked what he wants from a new club with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid all linked. “I’m thinking, putting everything together, taking my time, and I’m just looking for the best, I want to play football, be myself always, and enjoy what I do.
“I need to enjoy what I do because otherwise I cannot perform well. I don’t want to be thinking negatively. We can be losing games, trophies but you have to be happy and enjoy yourself – that’s what I’m looking for.”
On natural talent, Pogba is one of the best midfielders of his generation. However, he lacks positional and tactical discipline. His in-game intelligence could also be sharper, but these are things that should have been instilled in the Frenchman earlier in his career. He has been let down by coaches that were never really interested in his development.
This is why a summer switch to Manchester City was such an interesting prospect. At the Etihad Stadium, Pogba would have worked with Pep Guardiola, who would have demanded things of the Frenchman that no other manager has been able to extract. It would have been a true test of Pogba’s capacity for learning.
It’s possible Pogba is unable to absorb new ideas and methods. At this stage of his career, he has reached maturity. Very few players are able to change their game this late on. The player Pogba is now might well be the player he is for the rest of his career no matter who he signs with ahead of the 2022/23 season.
Allegri will at least put an arm around Pogba when he needs it. The Frenchman plays his best soccer when he is trusted by his manager and those around him. Pogba never had this in six years at Manchester United, but he is seen in a very different light at the Allianz Stadium, where he left behind only good memories in 2016.
The technical ability of Pogba cannot be doubted, but the key to getting the best out of him could be found in his mind. If Juventus can get the Frenchman’s mind right, the rest could follow. Pogba could pick up where he left off for the Bianconeri six years ago. The return to Juve could yet prove to be the right move for his career, even if it means going backwards to go forward once again.