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Paul Pogba doping ban: The end for Juventus and France star and what should have been? Friday, 01 March 2024

Paul Pogba doping ban: The end for Juventus and France star and what should have been?

Paul Pogba’s career could be over after his four-year ban for doping with the feeling that the 30-year-old Juventus midfielder never fulfilled his potential.

The former Manchester United player, who won the World Cup with France, was supremely talented and in bursts looked an absolute world-beater - but he never really showed it on a consistent basis.

He has already said he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas), but if that fails, by the time he will be eligible to play again - August 2027 - he will be 34 and without a club.

So it will be a big ask for a player who has not managed the equivalent of 22 full league games in a season since 2018-19 to stay fit and motivated for such a long period of time.

French football journalist Julien Laurens said on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Euro Leagues show: "I remember seeing him as a 15-year-old and he was the best thing I’ve ever seen.

"He was so good, a generational talent, an absolute genius.

"He had a good career, he won four Serie A titles and the World Cup. It’s a really good career. But he was so good that I thought there was no limit.

"I thought he’ll get to the top, he’ll win Ballons d’Or, he’ll win more trophies and be the best player in the world.

"In the end we will always look back at his career and him probably the same way thinking what should have been."

What now for Pogba?

Paul Pogba’s minutes played per league seasonPogba played for Manchester United in 2011-12 and from 2016-17 to 2021-22. The other seasons were for Juventus

Pogba was provisionally suspended in September after a drugs test taken after the opening game of the season found elevated levels of testosterone in his system.

On Thursday, Italy’s national anti-doping tribunal (Nado) confirmed the four-year suspension, which backdates to 20 August 2023 when he failed the test.

Pogba said the verdict was "incorrect" and he would "never knowingly or deliberately" dope. He confirmed he will appeal and added "when I am free of legal restrictions, the full story will become clear".

Laurens said: "The story being told is he’s got a friend who is a doctor in Miami that gave him some food supplements which he took not knowing what’s in them and that’s what caused all of this.

"He could have easily said ‘I was naive, I didn’t pay attention and I should have mentioned it to Juventus’ medical staff’ and maybe the sentence would have been reduced.

"For him to expect less than four years because he said ‘I didn’t know I was taking it and hoping for the best’, I find it a little naive."

Italian football expert Mina Rzouki said: "His sentence can be reduced if an athlete can prove their doping was not intentional or their samples were contaminated - or if the player provides substantial assistance to help the investigators.

"So it’s hinging on whether not he can prove this was unintentional and then there is potential we could see the ban reduced to two years which may mean he could make a comeback."

Laurens said: "I think four years does [end his career]. He’s almost 31. You add four years to that. For 18 months he has barely played because of injury. So it’s not just four years without football, it’s almost six years.

"I’m not sure he would want at 35 to be ready to go again. I think this is how it will end if this ban is upheld. If it’s two years there’s a chance at 33 someone gives him one last contract."

Juventus are thought to have cut his salary down to about £2,000 a month - as part of a collective agreement between clubs and the players’ union.

Pogba was earning £6.9m a year. Juve have the option to cancel his contract, which runs until June 2026 - more than a year before the four-year ban would be over.

Italian football writer James Horncastle said: "Juventus have not put out a statement. Their sporting director, when he was last asked, said they’d await the final outcome of the process.

"There’s still an appeal to go to CAS. Until that is exhausted we’ll not have an official statement from Juventus on what actions they can take."

Did Pogba’s career live up to expectations?

Paul Pogba’s stats per league seasonPaul Pogba had a big impact in several seasons for Juventus and Manchester United

By most metrics, Pogba had an extremely successful career.

He started his career at Manchester United before moving to Juventus, where he won Serie A in each of his first four seasons at the club - including two doubles.

He then returned to United for a world-record £89m in 2016. In his first season at United he won the Europa League and FA Cup.

Pogba, who won 91 caps for France, then helped Les Bleus to 2018 World Cup glory, scoring a goal in the final as they beat Croatia 4-2 in Russia.

In the two seasons either side of that World Cup, he had a hand in 38 Premier League goals for United (six goals and 10 assists in 2017-18 and 13 goals and nine assists in 2018-19).

But for a player who was tipped to be a legend, he never got close to a Ballon d’Or - and those two trophies in 2017 with United would prove to be the last two of his club career.

Injuries interrupted his final three seasons at United, with lack of form not helping either, and his return as a free agent to Juventus 18 months ago was meant to be a new start.

But more injuries, and then this ban when he was finally fit, mean he has only played 213 minutes for the Italian club.

"It was supposed to be a reunion telling a new story, a prodigal son returning to Juventus. This summer everyone thought this would be the year and he would do something special," said Rzouki.

"Both the club and the player wanted to write the story of the icon’s triumphant return. Instead, we will be left wondering what will happen to a player who never quite fulfilled his true potential."

Laurens added: "He got to be one of the best players in the world, 2018 was the pinnacle of his career in Russia with France, but not as high as he should have been. He’ll agree with that.

"The only way I’d use the word waste for him and his talent is because he should have had a much better career than what he’s had."

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