Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic, Paul Pogba may have departed Manchester United last year. Indeed, everything appeared set for the Frenchman to move on from Old Trafford for a second time in his career when the world ground to a halt. With the finances of football clubs hit badly, nobody could sanction the signing of Pogba.
12 months on and the situation is both the same and very different. Pogba is still reportedly open to the idea of leaving United, with contract talks between the two parties still stagnant. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to linger but there is a sense that, with fans returning to stadiums for the start of next season, clubs are willing to spend more on transfers this summer.
That could be to Pogba’s benefit, with Juventus widely believed to be leading the pursuit of the 28-year-old. Max Allegri, Pogba’s former manager, has returned to the Turin club and has reportedly made the re-signing of the Frenchman one of his biggest priorities for the summer transfer window.
But why would Pogba want to leave United for Juventus at this specific point in time? While the midfielder enjoyed great success during his time in Serie A, the Old Lady aren’t the team they were a few years ago. In fact, Juve are in worse shape right now than Manchester United, who finished second in the Premier League last season.
Juventus currently face a colossal rebuild, with the Turin club facing financial challenges that could force them to sell a number of their prize assets. The 2021/22 season saw Andrea Pirlo sacked after only just scraping a fourth place finish in Serie A. For a spell, it appeared certain Juve would miss out on Champions League qualification altogether.
Allegri will steady things, but his re-appointment highlights a lack of new ideas at the Allianz Stadium. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to perform but the team and support system around the legendary Portuguese forward is lacking. Juventus don’t know what they want to be and that has manifested itself in a mishmash of a team on the pitch.
By returning to Juventus, Pogba could find himself in a similar situation to the one he experienced at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. He would be dropped into a team that is generally below his level and expected to address things on his own. The pressure on Pogba to produce moments of individual brilliance to mask deeper faults would be immense.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have their own flaws but they are at least heading in the right direction. The Norwegian coach has a clear approach and has surrounded Pogba with as many world class players as possible at United. Pogba is no longer required to carry the team on his own. He has the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and now Jadon Sancho to share that responsibility.
At Manchester United, Pogba has Champions League football, he has teammates on his level and he has a manager who recognises his importance. Old Trafford has never before looked more like the right place for the Frenchman, which makes it all the more peculiar that he could finally be on the move this summer.
Now 28 years old, Pogba is at a critical juncture of his career. These are his peak years and he must weigh up which club will give him the best platform over the next few seasons. Juventus might hold an allure for the midfielder, such was the success of his first stint there, but the Old Lady needs rejuvenation. Pogba suffered for being part of a rebuild at Manchester United once before. Does he really want to go through that again?
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