Paul Pogba faces the toughest examination of his career to date, as he attempts to cope with a much higher level of responsibility at Juventus.
Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez have all gone elsewhere, taking with them impressive combined totals comprising 16 goal assists, 125 key passes and 141 chances created in Serie A alone last season.
Replacements have been recruited in the shape of South Americans Hernanes and Paulo Dybala, plus German international Sami Khedira, who is currently injured.
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However, with such stellar names having walked out of the door this summer, it’s open to question whether those fresh inductees into the Juventus realms are capable of filling the substantial voids left behind.
There’s one man above all others who coach Massimiliano Allegri will be looking towards to offer that crucial creative spark – Paul Pogba.
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Despite losing so much irreplaceable talent throughout the transfer window, the Bianconeri mercifully fought off reported interest in the young Frenchman from a host of clubs.
Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Barcelona were closely linked with the former Manchester United prospect, while a potential fee of around £73 million was widely mooted.
After a superb campaign last time out, Pogba must pay back that commendable faith in full by swiftly assuming the role of senior squad member at the Italian champions.
The signs appeared good when he produced an outstanding display as the Old Lady overcame Lazio in the curtain-raising Supercoppa Italiana on August 8, yet his form has dipped dramatically since.
Pogba’s below-par performances during two consecutive league defeats suffered at the beginning of this term – against Udinese and title contenders Roma – have set alarm bells ringing.
It must be remembered that he remains only 22 years of age; but following three years in Turin, he knows the club and its associated expectations intimately.
His explosiveness from the middle of the park is vital to any resurgence Juve hope to experience, as evidenced by the ten goals in 41 appearances he struck last year in all competitions.
Furthermore, those stats were achieved in spite of a near two-month lay-off due to a hamstring problem.
The Le Havre youth product was afforded a large amount of freedom in which to roam when luminaries Pirlo and Vidal patrolled the midfield areas alongside him, while fully aware they were there for him should he falter.
Yet, he must belie his tender years to become the driving force within a struggling team shorn of three chief creators.
Ideally, for the French international’s sake, new playmaker Hernanes from Inter Milan can lift some of the burden off his shoulders over the coming months.
But, this fledgling campaign promises to provide the ultimate litmus test of Pogba’s capacity to elevate his status to that of world-class, as he bids to showcase an ability to lead Juventus’ revival from the front.
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