Paul Pogba, it is safe to say, is a man who has grown fully accustomed to winning.
No wonder then that – faced with arguably the threat of what could be a career-ending doping ban – he has turned to the man regarded as the best in the business.
Mike Morgan, as he always does, declined to comment when contacted by Mail Sport.
But it is understood that the London-based specialist, who has worked with the likes of Tyson Fury, Conor Benn and Chris Froome, is currently formulating the Frenchman’s response after he tested positive for testosterone-boosting DHEA and his world stopped turning.
Pogba, now at Juventus after strolling out of Old Trafford for a second time, is 30 years old. The standard punishment for such an offence is a four-year ban. While he may get a gig in Saudi Arabia or MLS if such a punishment is forthcoming, it would signal the end of Pogba’s time at the elite level.
Those who know him say there is huge frustration. There is also strong denial. Not a denial that the DHEA, which elevates naturally produced testosterone, was in his system.
It is understood that Pogba accepts that. But Morgan is likely to argue – with the full backing of his client – that this was a mistake. That Pogba had no idea how it got there. That there was no attempt to gain a competitive advantage.
A long and painstaking operation to find the cause of what he will argue was an unwitting ingestion, is ongoing. Receipts are being requested and scoured. Every potion in the house, including all of his wife’s beauty products, has been tested.
Some, however, appear to have made their minds up already. It can be revealed that Juventus have stopped paying their player’s wages, despite the absence of a charge, let alone a guilty verdict.
That equates to a saving of around £130,000 a week for a player who has been beset by injury since he returned to Turin in the summer of 2022.
The club’s supporters appear to have taken a similar stance to their officials. There was faux outrage when Pogba was snapped last month at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the same day that Juventus were taking on rivals Inter.
The reality, however, was that Juve bosses had suggested that it would be a good idea if he were to stay away from the club. Then there is Nemanja Matic, who last week bad-mouthed Pogba and Jadon Sancho to an Austrian social media channel for ‘always’ being late to training at United.
That is the Matic who won the sum total of precisely nothing with the club, but perhaps more tellingly, Matic whom Pogba believed was a friend.
The comments, which come at a delicate time, have hurt. Carrington sources say Pogba, who cost United £89million to bring back to the club in 2016, was late for training on two occasions. Childcare issues were behind each. He was fined and paid the penalty with no complaints. The claim he was ‘always late’ has stung.
But there has been support. France manager Didier Deschamps has led the charge – sending WhatsApp messages on a regular basis.
The offers of support have flooded in. Marcus Rashford and Sancho from Old Trafford. Raphael Varane and various others from France. The PFA chief Maheta Molango has also been in touch and has offered his backing. Few of his friends believe he can be intentionally guilty.
Which brings us to the punishment. The Italians are yet to charge Pogba, yet he has been suspended since the test result came back in September after being taken in August. Already he has sat out more than two months of football.
While they are keeping their cards close to their chests, Pogba’s camp believe they have strong mitigating factors, not least their argument – which they will try to prove – that the substance was not in his body intentionally. There is room for manoeuvre and there are precedents.
In 2018 the Brazilian forward Joao Pedro, of Cagliari, faced a four-year ban after testing positive for a diuretic. Pedro insisted he had unwittingly consumed contaminated food supplements and, if you pardon the pun, his argument was swallowed.
As a result, he received a six-month ban – most of which was served over a pre-season. It would be a surprise if Morgan did not use the Pedro case as part of his defence.
At the moment, the focus for Pogba is on keeping himself fit. He is rigidly sticking to a personal programme which he undertakes daily at his home gym. Despite his treatment, he has not looked beyond returning to play for Juventus, although others may well be interested if the door remains closed.
Should Morgan work his magic, Pogba may well have offers elsewhere. Recently he has been telling friends: ‘All I want to do is play football’. He may be doing that sooner than anticipated.