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How will Paul Pogba fare on his return to Juventus?

For the second time in his career, Paul Pogba is making the move from Manchester United to Juventus. After leaving on a free transfer in 2012, the French midfielder spent four years in Turin, winning four league titles and two domestic cups. Pogba returned to Manchester in 2016 for a fee of £89 million, and hopes were high that he would boost the club’s Premier League winner betting odds with his quality in midfield.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Playing under a myriad of managers, Pogba managed moments of brilliance but rarely found a position that truly suited him in the club’s midfield. At times he was played as part of a deeper duo, while also being fielded as a number 10 on occasion, but throughout his time in Manchester it rarely felt like he had truly found his role in the side.

The discussion around Pogba often turned toxic, focusing more on his haircut or his body language than it did his performances on the pitch. His final season saw the midfielder restricted to just 27 appearances due to injury, and it was no real surprise to anyone when he left at the expiration of his contract.

The football world waited to see where he would turn up, but it was no real surprise when he was unveiled as a Juventus player. Of course, Juventini will be hoping that Pogba can capture the magic of his first spell at the club, but if they root their hopes in nostalgia then they may be in for disappointment.

Now 29, Paul Pogba is far from the barnstorming midfielder of his youth, and Juventus are not able to give him the same platform they once did. In Pogba’s first spell at the club, he was joined in midfield by the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, while Andrea Pirlo often played as the deepest midfielder. The midfield was perfectly set up for Pogba to play in aggressive manner, using his energy to impose himself on the game, and giving him the freedom to try and be creative when on the ball, sprinkling moments of magic throughout the match.

Juventus were the dominant side in Italian football, and could afford to have a midfielder who picked and chose how and when they would influence games. In contrast, Juventus’ midfield certainly still has talented players, with Manuel Locatelli undeniably gifted, but the likes of Arthur and Weston McKennie, while both more than competent, are unable to wrestle control of a match in the manner that the midfield of old were able to.In addition, Adrien Rabiot and Denis Zakaria have both performed on a less than consistent basis, and failed to live up to their promise so far.

Pogba is used to spending time in a midfield which is unable to get the best out of him, and he risks doing the same thing on his return to Turin. While it’s no surprise that Juventus moved to bring him back — after all, he is a very talented footballer — it’s not entirely clear how their midfield will function next season, or what kind of structure they will use to get the most out of Pogba.

That will be the big challenge facing Massimiliano Allegri, who isn’t generally seen as the type of manager to indulge mercurial talents. Whether Pogba succeeds at Juventus will almost entirely come down to whether Allegri sets his side up in a way to maximise Pogba’s talents. If he manages that task, Juventus may be able to resuscitate the Frenchman’s career. If not, Pogba will once again find himself stuck in a midfield that produces less than the sum of its parts.

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