It took a lot longer than many expected, but Paul Pogba finally made his return to action for Juventus on Tuesday evening. The French midfielder had rejoined the Bianconeri as a free agent last summer, but the lingering effects of a meniscus injury had kept him sidelined until this week.
Surgery to correct that issue had also caused Pogba to miss the World Cup, but fans at Juventus Stadium were excited to see his name among the substitutes as kickoff approached in a derby clash with crosstown rivals Torino.
The game did not get off to the best start as the Granata jumped out to an early lead, just 90 seconds having passed when Alessandro Buongiorno flicked a corner on to Yann Karamoh, who controlled with his chest before finding the back of the net.
Juve quickly equalised through Juan Cuadrado, only to see Antonio Sanabria — who had already drawn an incredible save from Wojciech Szczęsny – put Toro ahead once again in the 43rd minute.
Just as it seemed the visitors were set to take a lead into half time, Danilo popped up with another equaliser for the Old Lady, who then came out firing after the 15 minute break.
But even as the team stepped up a gear with Dušan Vlahović hitting the crossbar and Cuadrado narrowly missing, it was the sight of a substitute warming up that drew the biggest reaction from the home supporters.
“Siamo venuti fin qua per vedere segnare Pogba” – “we came all the way here just to see Pogba score!” – they chanted each time the man in the no.10 shirt moved on the bench.
Then it happened. Almost eight months after rejoining the club and almost a full year since his last competitive appearance, Pogba was sent into action by Juve boss Max Allegri.
The crowd celebrated as if he had indeed scored, but while he didn’t get his name on the score sheet, he did help his side finally take the lead and ultimately win the game against Torino.
A Federico Chiesa corner allowed Brazil international Bremer to head Juve into their first lead of the night, the latter then nodding a free kick on to Adrien Rabiot to seal all three points.
“It had been a long time since we wanted Pogba back with us and we are happy,” Allegri told DAZN and Sky Italia after the game. “With a game every three days, we need everyone available.”
In just under 30 minutes, statistics from WhoScored.com show that he won two aerial duels, had 14 touches from which he completed 10 passes, showing glimpses of the quality that led to his eventual £89.3 million ($107.32 million) move to England just seven years ago.
Not only did the appearance signal the end of the long wait for Pogba to be contributing for Juventus, but it also will hopefully draw a line under what had been an awful year for the midfielder too.
On his birthday in March last year, his home was burgled while he was playing in Manchester United’s Champions League match against Atlético Madrid, with Pogba’s children asleep in the house.
Then in August, French police opened an investigation into his brother Mathias following allegations of extortion made by Paul’s legal team. That came after the sibling released a series of videos on social media claiming his would make “great revelations” about the conduct of Pogba and his agent Rafaela Pimenta.
Add in the injury and missing the World Cup, and Pogba would be forgiven for wanting to put 2022 behind him as quickly as possible.
It took a lot longer than many expected, but this was the first step. Now Paul Pogba really is back at Juventus.
#Paul #Pogba #Returns #Juventus #Win #Serie #Derby #Torino