In the halls of Carrington, a young Paul Pogba rose alongside several other talents as a maverick destined for stardom. However, an early clash of egos with the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United set the tone for a footballing journey marked by ambition, homecomings, and strife.
Between the Juve chapter unfolding in Italy, his prodigal return to Manchester, and World Cup glory, we saw a rough saga marked by dressing room discord and positional experiments.
A Juventus encore, marred by injuries and personal trials, sets the stage for the final act. Now 30, Pogba stands at the crossroads. The looming shadow of a doping ban creeps over a career that still holds the potential for one last crescendo.
Will bounce back from the drug ban to emulate the late-career brilliance of Pirlo and script a final dance under the spotlight, or is this it for Paul Pogba?
This is the tumultuous story of Paul Pogba’s career (so far).
Coming Through at Manchester United
Paul Pogba emerged as a star in a constellation of talents like Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison. The quality of this class of under-18s was palpable as they had promise and potential, lifting the Youth FA Cup under the tutelage of Paul McGuiness.
Having procured his services from Le Havre, Pogba wasn’t an instant hit at Carrington. Some of his colleagues believed he began at a leisurely pace. But as the season unfolded, he seized it with relish.
With an imposing presence for his age and a confidence bordering on arrogance, United’s youth setup had found a player whose raw talent and growing skills set him apart.
Pogba’s style, deft ball control, and uncanny ability to dictate play hinted at a player destined for greatness. Amidst the echoes of cheering coaches and teammates, Pogba honed his craft.
Little did the world know that this French kid, who could hardly speak English, would become one of the game’s most enigmatic figures.
Falling Out With Sir Alex Ferguson
The fantastic French kid soon became a hit with the United fans who came to watch the youths play. He had this knack for making everyone else seem like amateurs.
By the start of the 2010/2011 season, the demand for Pogba to join the senior team was louder than anyone could ignore.
But in football, things don’t always go according to script, especially from players’ perspectives. And with a player as proud and hungry for success as Pogba, half-measures would not cut it.
Despite Sir Alex Ferguson’s attempts to convince him to commit to the club, the young Frenchman remained elusive. Pogba’s eventual decision to exit was fueled by an ambition that he felt was stifled, leading to a contract dispute with the legendary manager.
Ferguson, employing both encouragement and stern measures, first included Pogba in the first-team squad, followed by training with the reserves. However, after playing against Wolves and indications of involvement against Fulham, Pogba rejected a new contract.
This was the first time we got to see his maverick nature. Paul Pogba simply did not appreciate the lack of assurance of his place in the senior team.
The situation escalated as he was then left out of the squad, made to play for the reserves against Everton, and trained on his own during the contract dispute. This perceived “disrespect” irked the Frenchman, leading him to part ways with Manchester United.
Despite Ferguson’s efforts to integrate Pogba into first-team plans and manage his contract situation, the allure of a four-year deal from Juventus proved too enticing.
Pogba’s departure marked a significant loss for United, and Ferguson’s scathing comments about his attitude echoed the frustration that characterised this chapter in the talented midfielder’s career.
Becoming #PogBOOM: Blossoming at Juventus
After signing for Juventus for free in 2012, fans saw the French midfielder reach superstar levels faster than they could imagine. And, dang, did he do it with style.
Draped in the colours of the Bianconeri, Pogba oozed class and charisma. Dribbling through defences, he unleashed thunderbolts that seemed to defy the laws of physics, finding the net with a blend of finesse and power. The internet soon dubbed him “PogBOOM” — the sound the ball makes as it leaves his boot whenever he strikes.
A classic example came in a dazzling display for Juventus against Udinese in 2013.
A 19-year-old Paul Pogba left an indelible mark with two exquisite goals. The first, a masterpiece in the 41st minute, echoed Pogba’s prowess. The French maestro controlled a high clearance with precision, delivering a ferocious 35-yard shot that swerved off the crossbar and into the net, leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
This goal, a symphony of technique and power, reminded fans of that Roberto Carlos’s free kick against France. It epitomised Pogba’s ability to shine brightly in the midfield hierarchy, making him a standout talent for Juventus.
Yet, it wasn’t just about the goals. Pogba’s celebrations were as captivating as his play — the “dabbing” phenomenon, spontaneous dances that echoed his joy on the field, and a carousel of hairstyles that turned each match into a fashion showcase.
Juventus wasn’t just a team; it was a stage where Pogba painted his footballing masterpiece on a canvas of his eccentric fashion sense.
That Juventus team made it to the 2015 UCL final and lost to a great team spearheaded by the legendary MSN (Messi, Suarez, and Neymar).
#PogBACK: Returning to Manchester United
After making a name for himself at Juventus, interning under midfield legends like Pirlo, Paul Pogba’s homecoming in 2016 was met with thunderous applause from the Old Trafford faithful. The prodigal son had returned home!
The excitement wasn’t just emotional; it was financial, too. Pogba’s transfer fee, a then-world record of £89 million, spoke volumes about the club’s determination to bring back a player who had matured into one of Europe’s most sought-after midfielders.
Pogba’s decision to return to Manchester United wasn’t solely fueled by sentiment. The club’s ambitions, coupled with the magnetic pull of Jose Mourinho’s leadership, played pivotal roles. They saw him as the linchpin capable of reigniting the spark in their midfield.
Fans, rekindling memories of his Juventus brilliance, expected a virtuoso performance from the Frenchman. They wanted the midfield maestro to orchestrate victories and embody the spirit of the Red Devils.
As the stadium roared with anticipation, Pogba stepped onto the pitch, adorned in the iconic red jersey, ready to write a new act at the Theatre of Dreams.
Winning the World Cup
The highlight of Pogba’s international career came on the grandest stage — the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
As a key figure in the French national team, the midfielder orchestrated plays with vision and precision. His performances were skilful, stylishly lining France’s triumphant World Cup campaign.
His inch-perfect passes and commanding presence played a crucial role in unlocking stubborn defences in the group stages.
As the knockout rounds unfolded, his performances reached an all-time high. He was a mainstay in the French national team, starting all but one of the team’s games on their path to global domination.
The pièce de résistance came in the final against Croatia. In a match that would etch his name in French history, Pogba delivered a masterclass. His measured passing, intelligent positioning, and stunning goal showcased the complete midfield package. World Cup finals, usually cagey affairs, had not seen a long-range goal since 1982 — until Pogba’s shot.
Eventually winning the game after a goal-fest, Pogba reached the pinnacle of his career. His exploits were included in songs. Along with his French teammates, he received a hero’s welcome draped in the tricolour and basked in unending praise from the iconic “Ramenez La Coupe A La Maison.”
But little did anybody know that this moment of glory would precede a tumultuous period, marking the beginning of a rollercoaster ride for the talented midfielder.
Becoming part of the problem at Manchester United
Following his success at the World Cup, United fans expected more of the same at Old Trafford. But it seemed Pogba couldn’t replicate those performances.
To make matters worse, he still had that air of arrogance, changed hairstyles what seemed like every week, and tried to dribble opponents in dangerous positions or phases of play.
Another persistent challenge during Pogba’s tenure at United was the quest to find his ideal position on the field.
The dynamic midfielder possesses a versatile skill set, but determining his most effective role proved elusive. All talk shows focused on what topic: “What’s Pogba’s best position?”.
Managers experimented with different formations and tactical setups in a bid to unlock Pogba’s full potential. This ongoing quest for the perfect position mirrored the broader struggles the club faced during this transitional phase.
Subsequently, the relationship between Pogba and then-manager Jose Mourinho grew strained until they fell out. This strife peaked when the midfielder was stripped of the vice-captaincy in September 2018, reflecting a disruption in the club’s harmony.
Pogba’s divisive agent, Mino Raiola, didn’t help matters. He fanned the flames of discontent with public statements and schemes behind the scenes that bred a toxic atmosphere within the dressing room.
Pundits and fans didn’t take it easy on him either. As the supposing talisman of a dysfunctional team, the buck stops with him. So the glaring question whenever United delivered a disasterclass was this: “Where is Pogba in all this?”
Off the field, Pogba’s involvement in an Adidas advertisement after United’s loss to Liverpool in 2018 added complexity to his narrative. The video’s timing and content were criticized and considered tone-deaf, especially given the team’s poor performance.
Worse still, these off-field ventures often overshadowed his in-game contributions, intensifying his scrutiny. With little contributions on the field, Pogba’s antic fanned the embers of Manchester United becoming the new FC Hollywood.
When Mourinho was sacked, Pogba’s Instagram account sent out that infamous “Caption This” post that set the football world ablaze. Juvenile stunt with dire consequences.
In the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, marked by relative stability, Pogba’s journey faced challenges with injuries and inconsistent form.
As the team underwent managerial transitions, it was clear that Pogba stood at a crossroads. His expiring contract brought his chapter with Manchester United to a close, and this time, it was for good.
Paul Pogba’s Cursed Return to Juventus
Returning to Juventus in 2022, Pogba went on a journey to rediscover success and form. Fans and pundits in Turin hoped to witness the resurgence of the dynamic midfielder who once graced the Juve midfield.
But the football gods must have had other plans. Pogba faced many unfortunate injuries and off-field controversies that disrupted his rhythm and impact on the pitch.
Injuries, particularly a torn meniscus and a thigh muscle problem, limited Pogba’s playing time, frustrating Juventus fans. He didn’t even make it through pre-season unscathed.
Despite the club’s positive sentiments upon his return, the midfielder struggled to make a significant impact on the pitch, playing only six times in Serie A without completing a full 90 minutes.
As time passed, things got worse. Because under the thick exterior of the generational talent that fans believed Pogba was, there was still a human — subject to the same pressures and emotions as you and me.
The Family Affair
Paul Pogba admitted that his injuries led to psychological challenges. This new and more complex issue added another layer of complexity to his tumultuous season.
Subsequently, fans grew increasingly disenchanted with his unreliability. And when he posted pictures of himself enjoying a ski trip while recovering from injury, the criticism became deafening.
Then things took an unorthodox turn.
While on continental club duty, Pogba’s wife, Zulay, and their two young sons faced a threat during a burglary at their Manchester home. This traumatic event occurred just before the player himself experienced a horrifying situation in a Parisian flat.
Pogba became a victim of an £11 million extortion attempt. The traumatic incident involved hooded men, assault rifles, and a demand for payment.
Footballers are usually well-protected, so this experience was unexpected. Some began to draw parallels between it and the 1978 kidnap saga involving Netherlands legend Cryuff. Like his Dutch predecessor, this jarring event affected Pogba in ways we couldn’t see.
So, should it have surprised anyone that the player was soon consulting a witch doctor, ‘Ibrahim the Great?’ While critics and his brother claimed Pogba’s foray into the supernatural was for antagonistic reasons, the player maintains he was just trying to protect himself
Add these issues to his brother’s three-month stint behind bars and Pogba’s belief that his financial success turned his family into strangers. It becomes easy to see how the mental and physical stress ruined his season.
The Doping Ban
Things came to a head just last month, on October 2023. Pogba now faces another devastating blow with a positive doping test for testosterone. It was detected in Italy after “The Old Lady” beat Udinese in the season’s opening game.
The midfielder, already grappling with injuries, family threats, and a troubled stint at Juventus, now confronts the prospect of a football ban that may last up to 4 years.
🚨 BREAKING: Paul Pogba has tested doping positive also to backup sample today.— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) October 6, 2023
🇫🇷 Juventus will now decide how to proceed with his contract as Pogba faces risk of long-term ban. pic.twitter.com/SzLedWaTey
This revelation, stemming from a routine test after Juve’s season opener, raises questions about the toll of adversity on Pogba.
The complex interplay of injuries, controversies, and off-field challenges might have led him to resort to banned substances to cope with the mental pressure of being a pro baller.
What’s next for Pogba?
At 30, contemplating a potential four-year ban might feel like a career’s obituary. But is it really? I would argue otherwise.
History has shown that the game often welcomes redemption arcs. Just look to the storied career of Andrea Pirlo, who, in his 30s, took Juventus and Italy’s midfield and made them his playgrounds.
Likewise, some of the greatest footballers the game has ever seen had the best spells in their twilight years. Even Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals since he turned 30 than all the years before.
Pogba could well script his resurrection tale, take a leaf from the proverbial phoenix, and rise from the ashes. Picture a scenario where he transforms adversity into gold, spearheading a comeback reminiscent of Messi’s resurgence at Inter Miami.
Football has a way of springing surprises. And for a player with such raw power, rare skills, and an innate ability to read the game like few others, I believe a rabbit is waiting to be pulled from his hat.
The pitch awaits, and in the unpredictability of the beautiful game, hope flickers like a beacon in Paul Pogba’s dark corridor.