Paul Pogba's legacy examined from world's most-expensive player to four-year drug ban

Paul Pogba's legacy examined from world's most-expensive player to four-year drug ban

WATCH NOW: Sports round-up as Paul Pogba slapped with four-year doping ban

Jack Otway

By Jack Otway

Published: 29/02/2024

- 14:32

The midfielder's future in football is up in the air

When Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba back in the summer transfer window of 2016 for a world-record fee of £89million, it was a seismic move that sent shockwaves around world football.

However, while the price raised eyebrows, just about everybody thought the France international would be the ticket to more Premier League dominance after a few testing years under the likes of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

Pogba and his swashbuckling style were going back to Old Trafford to show why the club should never have let him go in the first place, with the midfielder previously turning his back on Sir Alex Ferguson. Few did that.

Under Jose Mourinho, it seemed to be a match made in heaven. A serial winner managing a player with unlimited potential? It's no wonder fans expected the world.

Paul Pogba Juventus Man Utd France

Paul Pogba's legacy is tricky to determine after spells with Man Utd and Juventus with the World Cup winner always dazzling for France


Except, by the time Pogba departed United on a free transfer in 2022, nobody really cared.

He had become a peripheral figure at Old Trafford, with injuries regularly impacting his game time, and it was seen as best for all parties when they went their separate ways after he'd shrunk into the shadows.

Fast-forward to now and United, like many others, will be reeling after it emerged Pogba's career is now in limbo.

The midfielder has been slapped with a huge four-year ban after testing positive for testosterone after Juventus' first game of the Serie A season against Udinese back in August. Though he plans to appeal, and denies any wrongdoing, his career is over as things stand.

Even if he serves the suspension before trying to launch a comeback, few will want to sign a 35-year-old in 2029. Therefore, retirement in the foreseeable future is a genuine possibility and the clock seems to be ticking down.

It wasn't meant to end like this. And when it comes to looking at Pogba's legacy, it's tricky to determine exactly what that is.

In his prime, was he a success or a failure? The real deal or a fraud? World-class or merely surrounded by world-class team-mates?

There is no denying the talent Pogba possesses. He is a rare blend of power and panache, a player who can bend the ball to his will and change games with the drop of a shoulder, a dazzling dribble or sensational shot.

Juventus fans who watched him week in week out during his first stint in Serie A will remember those times fondly, rather than the imposter that came back 18 months ago.

Pogba first arrived in 2012 after turning his back on United and immediately became a vital asset to Antonio Conte, shining in the heart of the Old Lady's side alongside the likes of Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo.

He bagged 34 goals and registered 40 assists during his first four years in Turin, driving Juventus' unprecedented dominance of Italian football as they left their rivals in the dust - winning four Serie A titles in a row. They also made the Champions League final in 2015, only to end up losing to Barcelona.

He had the world at his feet eight years ago and there was talk of a move to Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane wanted him but, when United made their move, the prospect of finishing what he started at Old Trafford was too tough to turn down.

Little would Pogba know, however, that he would peak at club level around that time.

He inititially won under Mourinho, like countless others before him. When United secured EFL Cup and Europa League glory in 2017, that double provided the foundations for the iconic manager to build his latest empire.

Months later, however, news of a rift arose. Mourinho felt Pogba was getting too big for his boots, having grown fed up of the dancing, haircuts and other social media gimicks, and dropped the midfielder for a crunch Champions League match away at Sevilla, with a young Scott McTominay picked instead.

Their relationship would, ultimately, never recover.

Pogba won the World Cup in the summer of that year, producing his brilliant best on the biggest stage of them all. His displays seemed to show Mourinho was mismanaging the midfielder, something that didn't seem lost on the 61-year-old as he aimed barbed criticism at the player mere weeks later.

“I think the World Cup is the perfect habitat for a player like him to give [their] best,” he said at the time. “Why? Because it’s closed for a month, where he can only think about football.


Paul Pogba Juventus

Paul Pogba was outstanding during his first stint at Juventus and won four Serie A titles at the club


“Where he’s with his team on the training camp, completely isolated from the external world, where they focus just on football, where the dimensions of the game can only motivate.

"During a season, you can have a big match then a smaller match, then one even smaller, then you can lose your focus, you can lose your concentration, then comes a big match again.

“In the World Cup, the direction of the emotion, of the responsibility, of the big decisions is always growing up.

"You are in the group phase, you go to the last-16, to the quarterfinals, to the semi-finals, to the finals. This feeds the motivation. This feeds the concentration of a player.”

In December 2018, Mourinho would lose his job. Few at United mourned his departure, with the manager clashing with other players - including Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw - before the axe was brought crashing down.

Pogba then proceeded to immediately improve under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and all seemed rosy again. Mourinho, it initially seemed, had got his star man all wrong.

Paul Pogba Man Utd

Paul Pogba won under Jose Mourinho at Man Utd but left the club in 2022 having failed to live up to his potential


Yet Pogba never seemed able to kick on. He would perform well under Solskjaer on ocassions but ultimately lacked the consistency to propel the club to the biggest prizes on offer.

Injuries didn't help but neither did his own ego. Pogba felt he should have been the main man. Signing players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes while he still wore red and white didn't align with his thinking.

Since returning to Juventus, his time in Italy has been hell. There have been only glimpses of the quality he possesses, only bookmarks in a novel that should have had considerable more pages.

Pogba has vowed to appeal his ban. But, even before his suspension, he was a faded force.

Juventus fans will remember the brilliance of old. French people will still revere him as a hero due to his World Cup exploits, especially given he scored in the final. As for those associated with United, he'll be remembered as a player who impressed and infuriated in equal measure.

Paul Pogba World Cup

Paul Pogba won the World Cup with France in 2018


There are goals to enjoy, some of which are sensational. His curling effort for Juventus against in 2013 are pleasing to watch, even all these years on.

But legacy is one of what might have been, regardless of what happens from this point on.

He will point to his World Cup winners medal, and the trophies won at United and Juventus as proof of his prowess.

Yet a player of his immense quality could have won so much more.

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