For a week now, Paul Pogba has become a full-fledged football player again. For the first time since April 2022, he has even just played two straight matches. Not as holder. Not yet of course. But after coming into play on Tuesday against Torino (4-2), he again grabbed a few short minutes, 13 in this case, Sunday evening, during the defeat of Juventus in Rome by replacing Filip Kostic (1-0).
His presence on the bench of the Stadio Olimpico, at kick-off, proceeded from the most elementary logic. 48 hours before the match, Massimiliano Allegri, the Turin coach, had also been clear about him. “I am very happy with his first appearance since his injury. In Rome, he will start as a substitute. He still needs time.”
Four games to decide
The staff of the Blues is also closely following the return to the field of the 2018 world champion. Is it however possible to imagine him in the list of Didier Deschamps on March 16 for the matches against the Netherlands then Ireland, in the Euro 2024 qualifiers, on March 24 and 27? It does not seem, for the moment, not really the trend, even if at this stage no final decision seems to have been made yet.
Concretely, between now and the gathering of the Blues, scheduled for Monday March 20 in Clairefontaine, Juventus still has four games on the program: two in the round of 16 of the Europa League against Friborg and as many in the Championship against Sampdoria then Inter. Milano.
Obviously the behavior of Pogba will be peeled by Didier Deschamps. The player’s feelings will also enter into the overall reflection. But taking part in matches in Serie A has nothing to compare, in terms of involvement and intensity, with two high-stakes international matches.
If his progression continues to be linear, we can expect, on the other hand, to see him again for sure with the Blues in June 2023 against Gibraltar, then Greece on June 16 and 19. A double meeting likely to coincide, too, with the return to selection of the other great absentee from midfielder Ngolo Kanté. Operated on hamstrings on October 18, 2022, he has now returned to Chelsea’s collective sessions.
Almost eleven months without playing
Prior to his reappearance in the Piedmont derby, Pogba had not played since his 10th-minute exit against Liverpool. That day, April 19, Manchester United was slapped by the Reds (4-0) in the Premier League. Hit in the calf, the midfielder (30 years old on March 15) could not finish the season with the Red Devils, ending on a sad note his five years spent in the north of England.
But his return last summer to Juve, where he had already played between 2012 and 2016, did not change his situation. Pogba (91 selections) has continued to relapse, accumulating physical concerns to end up missing the World Cup in Qatar at the end of 2022. Injured in the meniscus (knee), he had, at first, chosen to avoid the operation in early August 2022 so as not to miss the World Cup, even resuming training, to the chagrin of Allegri, who disagreed with such a choice.
The Frenchman had finally had to resolve to undergo surgery a month later and draw a line under the trip to the emirate. Consequence: Pogba had still not played a single minute with the Bianconeri in an official match until Tuesday, February 28 and had only briefly worn the Turin jersey against Mexican club Deportivo Guadalajara during a preparation meeting in last July.
What frustrate the Italian club, unable to use a player who receives 8 million euros in annual salary.