He arrived a gangly bundle of raw teenage talent. He left as one of the most accomplished footballers in the world, not to mention an icon of the social media age.
Wherever Paul Pogba’s career takes him from here, it’s to Juventus the Frenchman owes the greatest debt of gratitude for helping realise the boundless potential he arrived in Turin with in 2012.
Pogba’s four seasons there between 2012 and 2016 not only saw the boy become a man but the boy become a global superstar.
Paul Pogba enjoyed four highly-successful years with Juventus between spells at Man United
The France midfielder developed from teenage prodigy to global superstar in Turin
Pogba addresses the media as he returns to Turin with United in the Champions League
As Pogba returns to Turin with Manchester United in the Champions League on Wednesday night, it’s telling that the Frenchman speaks of the Italian city as his ‘home’.
For all Pogba insists that he is ‘happy’ at United – and he used the word eight times during Tuesday’s eve-of-match press conference at the Allianz Stadium – the reality is the last two-and-a-half years have been a retrograde step by comparison to the four that preceded them.
At Juventus, Antonio Conte and then Massimiliano Allegri were managers who completely understood Pogba, who knew exactly how to extract the best from him and who built their team structure around him.
Jose Mourinho still hasn’t figured out the best formula to unleash Pogba’s best, doesn’t entirely trust him and evidently doesn’t regard the World Cup winner as leadership material.
And as much as Pogba repeatedly asserts that he is content at United, he must look at Juventus and their continuing dominance of Italian football, their rising presence in the Champions League and the £100million acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo and wonder what might have been.
Pogba attempts a spectacular overhead kick in a match against AC Milan in April 2013
The Frenchman’s dynamic performances in midfield for Juve made him a fan favourite
POGBA AT JUVENTUS
37 matches, 5 goals
51 matches, 9 goals, 16 assists
41 matches. 10 goals, 11 assists
49 matches, 10 goals, 16 assists
178 matches, 56 goals, 71 assists
Serie A (4): 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16
Coppa Italia (2): 2014-15, 2015-16
Champions League runner-up:
He arrived in Turin at the rising of a Juventus tide that probably still hasn’t reached its high water mark.
They were crowned Serie A champions in 2012 for the first time in nine years, bringing to an end a mini-period of Milanese supremacy. It was that summer Pogba arrived from Manchester amid acrimonious circumstances.
Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t impressed by the 19-year-old’s irritation at a shortage of first-team appearances and criticised the manner of his Old Trafford exit.
‘It is disappointing, I don’t think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest,’ said Ferguson as a parting shot. ‘I’m quite happy that if they [players] carry on that way, they’re probably better doing it away from us.’
If Pogba had any remorse, it certainly didn’t show as he quickly established himself in Conte’s team. Soon he was earning rave reviews in the press, with many drawing comparisons with Pogba’s compatriot Patrick Vieira.
On Halloween 2012, Juventus mocked up various players as scary characters on their Twitter account. Gianluigi Buffon was Freddy Krueger, Andrea Pirlo was the Joker and Arturo Vidal was Hannibal Lecter.
Pogba was Darth Maul from Star Wars and pictured wielding a lightsaber. He was ‘the menacing ghost who appears in the opposition half’ and that summed him up nicely.
Juve’s social media mocked Pogba up as Darth Maul from Star Wars or ‘the menacing ghost who appears in the opposition half’
Pogba celebrates winning the first of his four Scudettos in Italy back in May 2013
He would maraud forward from deep in the midfield to dangerous positions, threading passes or, quite often, shooting and sometimes scoring. He was the dynamic figure Juventus needed to take them to the next level.
Pogba ended his first campaign in Italy with 37 appearances, five goals and a title triumph, even if he was sent off in the Scudetto-clinching match against Palermo for spitting at an opponent after being slapped in the face.
The 2013-14 campaign, which saw Juventus retain their title with 102 points, saw Pogba as one of the first names on the teamsheet throughout, scoring nine goals and creating 16 more in all competitions.
Key to his success was the way Conte utilised Pogba’s talents in a midfield three, which remained constant whether they played 3-5-2 or 4-3-3.
Important to all this was Pirlo, who would sit in front of the defence, pick out sumptuous long balls and draw markers away from Pogba – and Vidal – who were liberated to push forward and support the attack.
The consistency of approach allowed Pogba to hunt for the ball further up the field safe in the knowledge that Pirlo and Vidal would do the leg work.
Pogba worked brilliantly alongside Arturo Vidal in the Juventus midfield for four years
Pogba was central to the plans of both Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri (pictured)
Sometimes it was easy to forget that Pogba was only just into his twenties but Conte wasn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism in public when it was required.
After Pogba scored a memorable goal in a 4-2 win over Sampdoria in January 2014, Conte said: ‘Tonight Pogba could’ve done a lot better.
‘I’m not joking! At times the goal fogs the vision of the whole game, but I get angry as people forget everything around it.’
But Pogba was more than willing to learn and added both defensive and offensive elements to his game as he went along.
‘Conte has done nothing but push me,’ Pogba said in 2013. ‘It is easy to end up nowhere, so I have to keep working hard.
‘The coach has shown he is not afraid to give me a chance, and that age does not mean a thing.’
In the summer of 2014, Conte was replaced by Allegri but there was no drop-off in Pogba’s performances. Allegri deployed him in much the same way and Juventus were better equipped to challenge in Europe as well as at home.
They reached the final of the Champions League in 2015, losing 3-1 to Barcelona in Berlin, as well as winning a fourth straight Scudetto.
Pogba scored 34 goals and contributed 43 assists in his 178 matches for Juventus
He won the Scudetto four times in four seasons as well as the Italian Cup twice
Pogba takes on Allegri in a basketball shooting challenge during his time with Juventus
Allegri actually gets the better of Pogba in the challenge despite his worse technique
A year earlier, Pogba had taken on Allegri in a mini goals shooting challenge in training
In that, Allegri managed to get the better of his player thanks to some sharp-shooting
Pogba and Allegri enjoyed a close relationship, taking each other on in football and basketball shooting challenges that amassed almost 10 million views on YouTube.
They laugh and joke, bicker light-heartedly over what the score is, with Allegri gently mocking Pogba when he emerges victorious in both. It is easy to contrast their care-free relationship to the friction between Pogba and Mourinho.
Pogba’s final season saw 10 goals and a another league winners medal. His 34 goals and 43 assists in 178 matches overall for the Bianconeri told its own story about the influence Pogba had and his personal development.
Pogba shows off his Italian Cup winners’ medal in 2016 before returning to Manchester United
Pogba’s influence grew massively both on and off the pitch during his four years in Italy
All the while, Pogba became one of football’s foremost celebrities. The flamboyant hairstyles, the dance moves, the colourful boots, the embrace of social media to engage with fans all saw the Pogba brand skyrocket.
He oozed cool and market appeal, becoming the face of adidas and other companies. It’s little wonder United announced his world-record £89m arrival in the summer of 2016 by asking Stormzy to perform a rap.
All the while, Pogba’s Twitter and Instagram follower count rose, as did his millions in the bank.
As he returns to Turin in United colours, Pogba will no doubt find a moment to reflect on the trajectory of his career and Juve’s enormous part in it.