Timeline of Paul Pogba’s nightmarish return to Juventus

Paul Pogba's return to Juventus has not gone to plan
Paul Pogba's return to Juventus has not gone to plan / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

It was once said that Paul Pogba had the physical prowess of a basketball player with the delicate dexterity of a ballerina.

Events over the last 14 months have given Pogba the life of a character in a heavy-handed gangster film.

Here's a look at the scarcely believable events that have unfolded upon a truly hellish return to Turin.

11 July 2022 - Pogback

After a protracted offseason punctuated by an ill-advised Pogmentary, Pogba eventually came Pogback to the club which he represented with such success between 2012 and 2016. A documentary that followed Pogba's 2022/23 campaign would make for much more interesting viewing.

14 July 2022 - “Old acquaintances” look for Pogba

At the end of August 2022, Sky Italia reported that two unidentified individuals had approached Juve’s training complex demanding to see the midfielder. They were unsuccessful and described as “old acquaintances” allegedly looking for money after acting as Pogba’s discreet protection throughout his professional career.

It served as the next chapter in a tale as dangerous as it is depressing which began with Pogba supposedly being held at gunpoint in March 2022.

On 16 July, Pogba filed an official complaint with the Italian authorities. Regrettably, it was hardly the last instalment of this saga.

25 July 2022 - Knee injury

Two days earlier, Pogba had managed to navigate an entire half of football without injuring himself in a pre-season friendly against Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara. However, during a training session as part of the US tour, Pogba felt a "pain in his right knee”. This turned out to be a lesion on his lateral meniscus that clouded the rest of his campaign.

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2 August 2022 - Pogba opts against surgery

Pogba returned from the US to consult with Italian doctors about the best route to recovery. The then-29-year-old sought out the advice of the French knee specialist Bertrand Sonnery-Cottet, who operated on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2022 and ultimately determined that conservative therapy was the best course of action with the aim of being fit for the winter World Cup.

As with everything for Pogba this season, it did not work out well.

9 August 2022 - Pogba turns to police after extortion plot

While nursing his fresh knee injury, Pogba entered a dialogue with officers from France’s Central Office for the Fight against Organised Crime (OCLCO), detailing what took place on 19 March 2022. Four days earlier, Pogba’s Manchester residence had been burgled but much worse was to follow in Paris.

With a pair of assault rifles pointed his way, Pogba was ordered to pay €13m or risk the ruin of his reputation as reported by The Athletic. Pogba allegedly handed over €100,000 as a downpayment at some point between the initial kidnapping in March and his statement in August.

Just to throw another loop in this rollercoaster, Pogba’s older brother Mathias became entangled in this nefarious web.

27 August 2022 - Blackmail video released

Mathias Pogba, the former Wrexham and Crewe Alexandra defender, released a video on social media promising to make “great revelations” about his younger sibling.

Paul’s camp swiftly sent out a composed statement which revealed a lack of surprise over the allegations. Damningly, Yeo Moriba - mother to Paul and Mathias - signed the statement, siding with her youngest son.

The headline-grabbing revelation that eventually emerged claimed Pogba had hired a marabout - a west African holy man - to place a curse on Kylian Mbappe, at the price of €100 per hour, ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain in 2019. Mathias claimed that his brother forked out “at least €4m for the witch doctor’s services” over the years.

4 September 2022 - Pogba returns to individual training

The ultimate red herring emerged at the start of September as Pogba was spotted back out on the grass in Turin for the first time since preseason. The faint optimism lasted less than a day.

5 September 2022 - Pogba has knee surgery

The surgeon that performed the operation on Pogba’s meniscus revealed “the lesion got worse” after the midfielder opted for conservative therapy. Pogba only aggravated the problem further by forcing himself into training that month.

14 September 2022 - Mathias Pogba held in police custody

Paul Pogba, Yeo Pogba, Mathias Pogba, Florentin Pogba
Paul with Yeo, Mathias and Florentin Pogba / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

The Guardian reported that Mathias had “presented himself to the investigators” and was accompanied by three other individuals. Mathias strongly insisted that “he knows nothing about any extortion attempt against his brother”, according to a statement from his lawyer.

However, as he was keen to point out, Mathias could not be silenced even in the slammer. On 23 September, a pre-programmed Twitter thread was published on Mathias’ account which launched a scathing rebuke on his brother.

Mathias labelled Paul “a person ready to trample everything and everyone, even in his family, to get what he wants” and “a spoiled, egotistical little prince”.

31 October 2022 - Ruled out of the World Cup

Pogba missed 100 matches for Manchester United through injury. Over the years, he had complained about his ankle, back, calf, hamstring and thigh injuries - as well as a positive COVID-19 test - but never his knees.

By October, the muscular problems returned in the form of a damaged thigh that effectively ended any faint hopes Pogba had of defending his World Cup title in Qatar.

23 December 2022 - Mathias Pogba released from prison

Just before Christmas, Mathias was released from the prison which he had been detained in since September. While under strict obligations to avoid contacting his brother, Mathias' lawyer underscored the 32-year-old's insistence of his innocence, describing his client as "a complete stranger" to any extortion attempts.

29 January 2023 - First matchday squad of the season

Pogba had a front-row seat to see Juve record a historic 2-0 defeat at home to promoted Monza at the end of January. Massimiliano Allegri had warned that the midfielder was not fully fit and pleaded for “patience”. It would be another month before Pogba eventually got on the pitch.

28 February 2023 - Second debut in Turin derby

Dusan Vlahovic, Paul Pogba
Pogba finally made his second Juve debut in February / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

It lasted 22 minutes, brought 12 touches, five completed passes and one shot but Pogba had finally made a competitive appearance for Juventus seven months after rejoining the club. Treated to a hearty reception from the home ground of a derby against Torino, it was one of the few positive moments for Pogba this year.

March 2023 - Crypto crash

On top of the injuries and abductions, Pogba has had to juggle the collapse of his cryptocurrency, Cryptodragons.

One of many footballers to buy into the NFT craze, the virtual “eggs” that “hatched” into “dragons” that Pogba was flogging had a value of $162,000 at their peak according to Yahoo Finance. By March 2023, the same assortment of pixels was worth $5.

The crash directly took money out of the pockets of Pogba’s fans who had responded to his call to arms, with the 26-year-old Turkish courier Berat Kurnaz gaining attention after revealing that he lost three months’ wages in an interview with The Athletic.

8 March 2023 - Late to team meeting

After missing the first seven months of the season through injury, Pogba was left out of the side that hosted Freiburg in the Europa League last 16 for disciplinary reasons, arriving late for a pre-match team meeting.

12 March 2023 - Injured again practising free kicks

Any tensions that Pogba’s tardiness may have caused were quickly squashed but the midfielder managed to injury himself before Juve’s next fixture. On the morning of Sampdoria’s visit to the Allianz Arena, Pogba tore his abductor muscle while practising free-kicks. When your luck is out, it's out.

13 March 2023 - Mentally collapsed

After treading the familiar path out of Juve’s J-Medical centre, Pogba was seen apologising to fans with the news of his latest setback weighing heavy, telling those gathered: “Sorry, my head’s not in it.”

Allegri admitted that Pogba had “collapsed a bit emotionally”. “He has to put his soul in peace,” Juve’s manager said.

11 May 2023 - Showing flashes of his former self

Paul Pogba
Pogba featured against Sevilla in the Europa League / Emilio Andreoli/GettyImages

In mid-March, Juve’s chief football officer Francesco Calvo felt compelled to claim that the club will “absolutely not” sell Pogba. By April, the Frenchman was finally enjoying a run of appearances - from the bench - which offered a hint of validation for that stance.

After coming on as a substitute in the first leg of Juve’s Europa League semi-final against Sevilla, Pogba contorted his fragile frame to head a corner back across goal for Federico Gatti to snatch a 97th-minute equaliser. “When he plays in the opponent’s half, he becomes an extraordinary player,” Allegri gushed.

14 May 2023 - Merciful end to the nightmare

Paul Pogba
Pogba can't catch a break / SOPA Images/GettyImages

Yet, as has so often been the case, every bright spot proved to be a false dawn.

With just 23 minutes on the clock in Pogba’s first start of the season - exactly seven years after his last start for the club - the luckless midfielder pulled up with a thigh injury against Cremonese.

The latest ailment in an injury-ravaged term is expected to bring a merciful end to Pogba’s nightmarish return to Turin.