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Should Paul Pogba have stayed at Juventus rather than re-join Manchester United?

May 17, 2017 5:05 AM
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Should Paul Pogba have stayed at Juventus rather than re-join Manchester United?

While Juventus look to win the first part of an historic Treble in Wednesday's Coppa Italia final, Paul Pogba - who is set to miss Manchester United's trip to Southampton on the same night due to personal reasons - is preparing for the Europa League final.

As a result, some have questioned whether the midfielder should ever have left the Bianconeri in the first place.

After months of endless speculation, Pogba finally re-joined United from Juve last summer in a world-record £89.3m transfer that caused more than a few raised eyebrows at the time.

However, while his former side have gone from strength to strength in his absence, with Juventus still on course for a Treble, Pogba has endured stinging criticism from some quarters for his displays in a United shirt after struggling to readapt to English football.

Meanwhile, despite Pogba's much-heralded arrival at Old Trafford, the team itself have struggled at times, especially creatively, with United now certain to finish outside the top four of the Premier League this season.

There is no doubt that under Massimiliano Allegri's stewardship, Juventus are now enjoying one of the most successful, if not the most successful, period in the club's illustrious history.

However, this campaign the Bianconeri could do something not even the trophy-laden teams of Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi managed, and that is win a Treble of Serie A, Copa Italia and European Cup.

While Pogba has got his hands on the League Cup in his debut season back at United, though, with the possibility of the Europa League to follow, United currently look a long way from challenging the likes of Juve as one of the best sides on the Continent.

So maybe the playmaker should have heeded Allegri's warning just prior to him moving back to United last summer: "Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs," said the Juve boss.

Pogba has scored just four Premier League goals all season, a paltry total he surpassed in every league campaign he spent at the Juventus Stadium.

According to Frank Lampard, however, that is mainly down to the position United manager Jose Mourinho has utilised Pogba in this season, with the France midfielder having often been played in a deep-lying role that does not make the best use of his many talents.

"When Mourinho is playing a two, he wants them to defend," Lampard told Monday Night Football. "He wants their first thought to be security. I feel harsh criticising him because I don't think it's his real attribute to do that. I feel Mourinho would want a holding midfield player to be doing that job.

"Pogba has the ability to score and create goals, but from the position he's in, it's a long way to go. If he's not close enough, he's not going to get numbers as high as he should. It's a problem for United and Mourinho. If you're going to get the best out of him you have to give him some freedom."

Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher agrees, saying: "There's no doubt that he's better in a three-man midfield. That's what you would class as the Frank Lampard position - wide left in a three."

In stark contrast, though, Pogba operated far further forward on the left-hand side of a front three under Antonio Conte and Allegri at Juve, and the results were there for all to see with the player contributing an impressive 34 goals and 43 assists in all competitions in his four seasons in Turin.

It seems Pogba has appeared hindered at times this season by the astronomical transfer fee United forked out to lure him back to Old Trafford.

"They only speak about the transfer and about the money," he told Geoff Shreeves in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports in April.

"I wanted to say, in real life for a normal person, nobody can be worth £100m."

If the France international had stayed at Juventus, though, he could have simply carried on operating free from the constant questions about his supposed value for money.

The squad Allegri has built in his three years in charge of the Bianconeri is now arguably one of the most formidable in Europe, as demonstrated by the club having just reached its second Champions League final in the space of only three seasons.

However, regardless of whether Juventus get the better of Real Madrid in Cardiff on June 3, this is a team that now looks like challenging for Europe's premier competition on a regular basis.

That, though, is not something you could confidently say of this current United side, who will not even be in the competition next season unless they beat Ajax in the Europa League final.

So just in terms of getting his hands on the 'cup with the big ears' - the trophy every club footballer in Europe wants to win - then maybe Pogba would have been better served staying in Turin than moving to Manchester.

While the infamous Mancunian weather is certainly no reason at all to swap Juve for United, the eye-catching contract United offered the midfielder most certainly was!

According to extracts from 'The Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football', published in Germany last week, which included a breakdown of the deal that took Pogba back to Old Trafford last August, the player is being paid a whopping £165,500 per week by the club.

And while money is not the be all and end all for modern-day footballers these days, there is no way Pogba would earn that amount had he stayed in Turin.

There was always a feeling that Pogba had unfinished business at United after his acrimonious departure from the club in 2012.

At the time, then United boss Sir Alex Ferguson told the Irish Independent Pogba had not "showed us any respect at all to be honest" after joining Juventus following the expiry of his deal.

Pogba, though, said it was like returning "home" to his "first family" after re-signing for United last summer, with the 24-year-old desperate to show United fans what all the fuss had been about since he left the club.

"I feel like I went for a holiday and now I've come back home and I'm happy," Pogba told MUTV after completing his big-money move.

"I think it's destiny. I would say it's destiny. First, my mum told me I would come back here. And I said: "You never know, we'll see," and also it is a big challenge for me to come back here.

"I am really looking forward to working with Jose Mourinho," said Pogba after agreeing his move back to Old Trafford, and with good reason too.

The Portuguese has been one of the most successful coaches in Europe of the past 15 years and a virtual guarantee of winning trophies should you work under him, hence his nickname ''The Special One'.

Just ask Lampard about Mourinho's ability to get the best out of youngsters under his wing, so much so that it would be a major surprise were Pogba not to take his game on to the next level during his stay at United.

Mourinho, meanwhile, has also been quick to defend his star man during his struggles this season, saying: "First of all, in some of your mouths, he goes from the worst player in the Premier League to a great player in 48 hours.

"I am not specifically saying it is you. I say media, especially the Einsteins. We know he is a very good player. We know he needs some time to show his potential."

Pogba won Lo Scudetto in each of his four seasons in Turin, the last two of which also saw the him claim a league and cup double with Juve.

In fact, apart from landing the Champions League, there was nothing else left for Pogba to win at Juventus, making a move back to United understandable.

At Old Trafford, Pogba can embark on a five-year project to help return United to where they believe they belong - that is at the summit of English and European football once again - something he touched on when re-joining the club.

"I know this club has to win titles, it is built to win big things, I am focused on this. I am ready to go and just kill it," he told MUTV last August.

And in essence, Pogba summed up his reasons for swapping Turin for Manchester when revealing last August: "This is the right club for me to achieve everything I hope to in the game."

Let's leave the last word, however, to Sky Sports pundit Charlie Nicholas, who believes Pogba has made the correct call moving back to United.

"I don't think he'll be regretting it because of the financial package involved," said the former Arsenal and Scotland striker.

"Obviously, he sat down with his agent, who has got control of his future, and he's decided that this is the right deal for him.

"I think he thought: 'Wow what a contract' and that was it. He'd won everything in Italy and he'll probably expected Mourinho to make United a lot better, but this is probably the most boring United side I've watched.

"I still think United are the biggest club in the world, with the Premier League being what it is. There's something more glamorous about Real Madrid and Barcelona, but the challenge of proving yourself in England was clearly also an incentive, especially after he'd failed to do so initially.

Also read: Premier League: Conte speaks on Courtois’ future at Chelsea


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