Manchester United's loss has proved Juventus' gain with Paul Pogba's imperious form this season for the Turin club.
When a 19-year-old chose to snub Manchester United's contract offer and instead jump ship for the Serie A club, it would appear that Alex Ferguson didn't take it very well. Usually it is England's most venerated manager who decides the future of a young footballer and not the footballer himself, as so many of the club's greatest servants have found out through the years.
For so many years Manchester United wee the most illustrious club in the world, players only wanted to play for them, and they could consistently attract the game's biggest players. That pulling power seems to have waned somewhat in recent times. The Glazer take-over saddled the club with extraordinary debt and reduced the club's financial resources, an effect that coincided with other clubs suddenly coming into big money and instantly eclipsing United's spending power was a wound to the club's pride.
So when young Frenchman Paul Pogba decided he would be master of his own destiny and that his destiny lay at another of the world's biggest clubs, it added insult to injury. Pogba had done all that was asked of him coming through the youth ranks of the Red Devils and his form was so good in his final season at Old Trafford that at 19 year of age he was forcefully banging down the door for a first team place. So good was he that seven first team appearances and no starts was considered small change from his debut season.
He told l'Equipe: "There were things that you didn't hear about. I don't regret anything at all. I learned a lot there. But you had to be on the inside to understand my decision. It was the feeling that I had with [Ferguson]. The coach had faith in me, but didn't put me on. He said that I was too young. He said: 'Your time will come'. It didn't come."
That proved to be the reason for his departure, Pogba claims that he was just too impatient and the evidence was there to suggest that he was more than ready to compete with the best players in Europe. Ferguson is highly decorated manager but is somewhat stuck in his ways and while other managers both in Italy and in the Premiership are more than content to give youth their fling in the first team, he belongs to another era, one where youth bowed to experience, and that proved to be too much for precocious Pogba.
Well timed then, by a Juventus who seem determined to link their club with every young talent there is at the moment, who stepped in with just the right incentive. A four-year contract that was reportedly worth €1,000,000 a year to the teenager as well as a title winning team that went the entire season unbeaten and were playing to sell-out crowds in their brand spanking new stadium and realistic prospects of challenging for the Champions League, proved too good to turn down.
Some thought it an imprudent move by the Frenchman as the existing midfield of Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal is considered one of the best around, but fortuitous injuries to the latter two have given him his chance and he has taken his chance to shine scoring twice in his six appearances for the club, with goals against Napoli and Bologna.
While initially there were reservations about the youngster he has proved all critics wrong with his performances and won over the media with his characteristic humility. So often young players are proving problematic these days, but when Pogba was dropped by Juventus ahead of their clash with Chelsea for turning up late to training twice and not complying with the 'code of behaviour' expected by the club's team members, something many of his peers may have thrown a strop over, he humbly issued an apology to manager Antonio Conte and to his team mates.
A tall, physical and rangy midfielder with great feet and a bust of pace have seen comparisons to Marcel Desailly and Patrick Vieira. "Platini and Zidane are Juve's history. I want to be the future," the young man said, and all evidence would suggest, that if he keeps going the way he does, he will be.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty