COMMENT: A footballer's career. It goes fast. It really does. And if any young player refuses to heed the lessons from Paul Pogba's downfall, then there's really nothing you can do for them...
First, let's put it on the line. This column doesn't want Pogba to be guilty of doping. And if the original test does stand up to scrutiny, then this column is adamant it wasn't done consciously or deliberately.
Pogba doesn't deserve this. He really doesn't. The knee injury. The failed bid to make the World Cup. The consequences that came from putting off that knee surgery. The constant setbacks since his recovery. And all the while, dealing with the nightmare of his older brother being involved in an alleged extortion plot against him. And yet now we have this. A failed doping test. The potential of a four-year ban...
One day you're being chauffeured around in your Rolls Royce. Staring down Jose Mourinho. The next? Well, before you know it your career is crumbling around you. Okay, okay. That's it. That's the last of the cheap shots...
Look, there's a lot of fans - both from the Manchester United and Juventus supporter base - who have long become fed-up with Pogba and his antics. But surely no-one wishes this upon him? It's a heartbreaker. And as we say, almost to a man, no-one close to the midfielder believes Pogba set out to dope.
Didier Deschamps did sum things up well earlier in the week when asked about the situation. Pogba has always been careful with his diet, said the France coach. With what he puts in his body. The news, like many of us, stunned him.
"Obviously I am very surprised but I have no elements to judge the matter," said the former Juve player and coach.
"A lot of things are accumulating for him, it is a very difficult moment. I will have time to speak to him in the next few days, I wrote him a message.
"He has consciously taken the product? I can't imagine it, knowing him he wouldn't do it. With everything he has in his head, then... I remember the discussions with him about the vaccine and Covid. But that substance is in his body, we don't know how it got there."
Well, we're now getting a picture of how "it got there". It's emerging that Pogba took medication while training in the US which may've contained the troubling substance in question. But testosterone? Surely that's more the lark of the Joe Rogan crowd ('you gotta take your "T", maan'), than a footballer in the prime of his life? Even with the need to recover. Again, for this column, it only serves to suggest Pogba's actions weren't intentional.
But there is room for criticism. And whatever happens regarding the appeal, Pogba - it has to be said - only has himself to blame. Again, we're hearing from behind-the-scenes that Pogba admitted to Juve chiefs after learning of the positive test that there was no consultation with the club's medicos when it came to taking that US medication. All he had to do was make a call. Get the medication checked. And he would've been free and clear.
But much like his decision to ignore the advice of club medical staff when it came to knee surgery last year, he did the same this past summer. That ego Paul, that bloody ego...
Of course, it's all 20:20 now, but you do wonder where Pogba - and indeed Juve - would be if he'd just taken that advice in August about surgery. Yes, he was guaranteed to miss the World Cup. But this was expert advice. There's no better medical people in football than those you find in Italy. He really should've listened to them.
Just as Pogba should've put that call in from the US. But it's happened now. There's no going back. And as frustrated as Juve are, you hope the board and management now rally around the player. With everything he's going through, Pogba needs that support.
And it must be pointed out, those initial headlines of Juve 'slashing Pogba's salary' after his provisional ban, were way, way off the mark. Local law demands a suspension of salary when a player is found to have tested positive for doping. A basic wage can only be paid. Hence, Pogba's monthly pay dropping to €2000. Juve were left with no other choice.
This career. The highs. The lows. It really does go fast. We do hope Pogba is found innocent. We do hope there were errors in this test. But whatever the outcome, if any young player refuses to heed the lessons from Paul Pogba's past year, then there's nothing you can do for them.