Pogba to Juventus: One player remains from his final Juve XI in 2016

Paul Pogba will re-join Juventus on a free transfer, six years after leaving the club for Manchester United as the world’s most expensive player.

The Frenchman set the world record transfer fee with his 2016 return to United which set the Red Devils back some Β£89 million, after they had lost him fore free to Juve in 2012.

In what has been a rollercoaster of a career, Pogba now looks set to return to Turin for a second time, per Fabrizio Romano, with the move to be finalised next month.

He leaves United having won a Europa League and a League Cup, but finished as a runner up in the Premier League twice and a Europa League finalist in 2021, while also winning the World Cup with France in 2018.

In the time since leaving Juve, Pogba has become one of football’s most polarising and conflicting talents. On his good days, he remains as endlessly talented and near unplayable as ever. But United fans’ main qualm is that they very rarely saw those good days, certainly in more recent years.

Pogba was unable to fix United and spark their resurgence as they had intended him to do, but will return to Juventus a much more experienced player for his time at Old Trafford. Italian football has changed significantly since the Frenchman was last in Turin, however.

Pogba celebrates with the Europa League
STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – MAY 24: Paul Pogba of Manchester United celebrates with The Europa League trophy after the UEFA Europa League Final between Ajax and Manchester United at Friends Arena on May 24, 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Juventus have fallen away from the top of the domestic mountain, with Inter and AC Milan each winning the last two Scudetti respectively. Juve have had somewhat of an identity crisis, and are going through a rebuild of their own after years of trying to win the Champions League with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line.

Much has changed since Pogba and manager Masssimiliano Allegri were last together at Juventus, though, with just one player remaining from the XI that started in Pogba’s final game in 2016 – a 1-0 win in the Coppa Italia final against Milan.

In fact, the XI that started Pogba’s final game is completely unrecognisable compared to today’s squad. So, with him on the brink of completing his return, we’ve decided to pull out the XI from the last game that Pogba played for the Old Lady and find out what has happened since for each player.

GK: Neto – Barcelona

The Brazilian stopper started ahead of Gianluigi Buffon during Pogba’s final game, in what was his first season at the club.

Neto couldn’t break in as first choice beyond Buffon and left for Valencia in 2017, where his form earned him a move to Barcelona two years after that. He remains there today as one of the best number two’s in Europe, behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Can’t catch a break.

Neto orders his defenders while at Juventus
MILAN, ITALY – MARCH 02: Norberto Murara Neto of Juventus FC directs his defense during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale Milano and Juventus FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 2, 2016 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

CB: Daniele Rugani – Juventus

2015/16 was Rugani’s first full season in the Juve first team having impressed on loan at Empoli the season before. He didn’t quite develop into the heir to the defensive throne in the years to come, but played a fair amount of football during 2017/18 when Leonardo Bonucci left for Milan.

Rugani remains at Juventus today as a squad option, following a season-long loan to Rennes in 2020, and a 2021 loan to Cagliari. He made just 18 appearances in all competitions this season.

CB: Andrea Barzagli – Retired

One half of Juve’s ever reliable old guard duo in central defence, Barzagli was instrumental as his side clinched an 11th Coppa Italia and fifth consecutive Serie A title.

He extended his contract through to the summer of 2018 at the end of the season, but wouldn’t actually hang up the boots until 2019 aged 38, signing off with another Scudetto, of course. A true legend.

Barzagli in action for Juventus in their Coppa Italia-winning season
TURIN, ITALY – AUGUST 20: Andrea Barzagli of Juventus FC controls the ball during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and ACF Fiorentina at Juventus Arena on August 20, 2016 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

CB: Giorgio Chiellini – Los Angeles FC

The man that joined Juventus in 2004, signing off with another Serie A and Coppa Italia in 2016 would’ve been perfect for Chiellini. But that was never going to happen.

Chiellini has proven age is just a number and remained integral for both Juve and the national team until 2022, when he retired from international duty and announced he would move to LAFC in the MLS. Just retire, Giorgio. Seriously.

RWB: Stephan Lichsteiner – Retired

Nicknamed ‘Forrest Gump’ for his unrelenting engine, Lichsteiner was Juve’s go-to man at right back throughout the 2010s, turning out 257 times for the Old Lady from 2011 to 2018.

Arsenal decided they liked the look of him in 2018, though, and snapped him up on a free transfer. It became apparent very quickly that a move to the Premier League had come too late, though, and he left for Augsburg after one season. Lichsteiner retired in 2020.

Lichsteiner runs with the ball for Juventus in 2017
TURIN, ITALY – AUGUST 19: Stephan Lichsteiner of Juventus in action during the Serie A match between Juventus and Cagliari Calcio at Allianz Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

CM: Mario Lemina – OGC Nice

Lemina’s first season in Juve was a strong one as he played the entirety of the Coppa Italia final, and the Old lady made his move permanent in the summer that Pogba left. However, he would leave the club after his second season in Turin, with Southampton paying a club record fee to bring him to England.

The Gabon international was hit and miss for the Saints. After a few seasons, they’d had enough and sent him to the loan pile. First came Galatasaray in 2019/20 and then came Fulham the season after. He’s had a resurgence under Christophe Galtier at Nice, however, and must now keep that going.

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CM: Paul Pogba – Juventus

Pogback. Again. You can have that one for free, guys.

His return to United was ultimately a failure, and returning to Serie A in its current state is no easy task, but it feels inevitable that Pogba will perform like the world class player he can be, now he’s back in Turin.

Pogba celebrates the Coppa Italia win in his final Juventus game
ROME, ITALY – MAY 21: Paul Pogba of Juventus FC celebrates the victory after the TIM Cup match between AC Milan and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on May 21, 2016 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

CM: Hernanes – Retired

Hernanes’ time in Italy was a seriously successful one, enjoying solid spells at Lazio and Inter before signing for Juventus in 2015. He struggled to nail down a spot, however, and left halfway through his second season for China, in February 2017.

Hebei China Fortune loaned Hernanes back to Sao Paulo that summer, and the move was eventually made permanent. Hernanes made one last move before retirement, spending one season with Sport Recife in Brazil’s Serie B, before hanging the boots up this summer.

LWB: Patrice Evra – Retired

Evra enjoyed a solid three years at Juventus after leaving Manchester United in 2014 and struck up a fine relationship with fellow Frenchman Pogba.

He extended his contract for another season after the 2016 Coppa Italia win and left in 2017 at the end of that deal for Marseille. His spell back in France ended with a terminated contract and a playing ban in UEFA competitions following violent conduct, and he signed for West Ham at the start of 2018 in a forgettable spell before retiring that summer.

Evra celebrates with Pogba for Juventus
TURIN, ITALY – MAY 14: Patrice Evra (L) of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and UC Sampdoria at Juventus Arena on May 14, 2016 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

ST: Paulo Dybala – Free agent

23 goals and seven assists in his maiden season as a Juventus player made Dybala look as unstoppable as people thought he would be. ‘La Joya’ looked an absolute menace, and continued to impress in the coming few years.

That delightful form and consistent torment of defenders has fallen away in more recent times, though, due to injury and inconsistency. He opted to leave the club for free this summer in search of a new challenge, but it remains to be seen which club will take a punt on him. The next move is crucial.

ST: Mario Mandzukic – Retired

Leading the line, Mandzukic made 36 appearances in what was his debut season for Juventus, finishing up with just 13 goals in all competitions.

He didn’t score in the Coppa Italia at all that year, but the Croatian would grow into a key piece of the puzzle for Juve in the coming seasons despite not getting them over the line in Europe. He left for Al-Duhail in 2019, and spent a season in Qatar before closing out his career with Milan in 2021, failing to score in his ten Rossoneri appearances.

Mandzukic celebrates a goal for Juventus
VERONA, ITALY – NOVEMBER 06: Mario Mandzukic of Juventus FC celebrates after scoring his opening goal during the Serie A match between AC ChievoVerona and Juventus FC at Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi on November 6, 2016 in Verona, Italy. (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)

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