Paul Pogba's Legacy Depends On Juventus Success Over A Saudi Money-Grab

Pogba faces a crucial season, but he should face it in Serie A
10:00, 11 Jul 2023

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba has reportedly turned down initial overtures from the Saudi Pro League. A firm no or a ploy to eke more money from the willing overspenders who fund the league everyone is talking about? At this point it is unclear. But Pogba would do well to shrug off any interest from Saudi Arabia at this stage in his career. While the rewards would be bountiful in a financial sense, in terms of legacy a move to the Middle East could signal a sad denouement.

Last season promised much. Pogba was visibly happy to be free from the shackles of Manchester United, a club that his supporters still claim never found the mystical formula to “unlock” him. Frustrated Reds would reply that, after playing in every possible midfield position, including briefly out wide, he never quite cut the mustard consistently. He was paired with every type of midfielder from Fred and Scott McTominay to Bruno Fernandes and Nemanja Matic, and he still didn’t put in the work required. The undisputedly gifted but oft-laxed Pogba is as polarising a figure as they come.


But Juventus had been a happy hunting ground before. Pogba had learned his midfield trade alongside the still-wonderful Andrea Pirlo during his initial spell between 2012 and 2016. Four Serie A titles and a breakthrough with the France national side followed. By the time United came knocking for their former youth product, Pogba looked every inch the player his £89 million fee said he was.

We all know how that turned out at Old Trafford and we won’t bore you by going over old ground in too much depth. Underachievement for both player and team broken up by occasional brushes with brilliance and trophies for both. A sad, bitter end that has been so typical of how United handle their modern player departures. But a return to his spiritual home of Turin was seen as a move that could return Pogba to his peak. The player who helped galvanise France on the way to winning the 2018 World Cup was still in there. It was just a case of coaxing him out.

Pogba suffered a knee injury that required surgery just before last season began. He did not make his grand return until February. Manager Massimiliano Allegri dropped him soon after for a Europa League tie as he was late to a team dinner. Pogba’s first start didn’t arrive until May, when he was substituted off after just 23 minutes against Cremonese with a thigh injury. In total, Pogba played just 10 games in his first season back in Italy.


If he chooses the Saudi Arabia route now, it will shape the way he is remembered. It will confine him to “Streets Will Never Forget” Twitter threads, an almost-was talent that we never quite saw the best of. The Frenchman could dazzle in the SPL, he could set new standards for a midfield player, and this assessment wouldn’t change. Saudi Arabia has the stars but it does not yet have the respect or the footballing culture to paint gloss on reputations. That may come in time if the league can avoid the pitfalls of the Chinese Super League or the ill-fated North American Soccer League. But right now it is no place for players like Paul Pogba.

What Pogba needs is a season in which he remains injury-free, fit and available for his club. Juventus fans began to turn when videos of the player skiing emerged over Christmas while he was out injured. But rather than rage against the negativity, as he was wont to do at United when his performances were criticised, he needs to make a mockery of it. No Juve fan is going to turn their nose up at a man who helped them lift four league titles recapturing his best form.

Pogba must go against his own mercurial nature. A gifted and exhilarating natural talent, he must dance with what brought him to the upper echelons of his sport. Staying injury-free is of course partly down to fortune. But Pogba must make the most of this chance. At the age of 30, if this goes south he might not find himself at an elite club again. At that point, a move like that which is on offer in the SPL will be his only option.

But right now he has another option. That option is to help Juventus return to the Champions League and to reclaim the Serie A crown. Their three seasons without the league title is their longest stint since 2010-11. Due to a 10-point deduction owing to capital gains sanctions, they face a season without Champions League football for the first time since 2011-12. There is work to be done at the Allianz Stadium. If he is to save his legacy, Pogba will need to roll his sleeves up and help do it.

juventus to win serie a next season: 7/2 - BETFRED*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.