Paul Pogba's future at Juventus is one of the most talked-about transfer stories in world football, and if the midfielder returns to Manchester United and the Premier League, as reports claim he might, he would follow the trajectory of Chelsea's Nemanja Matic and transform the club.
Pogba was most recently linked with a move back to Old Trafford by David Wright of the Express, who suggests that United are among several clubs that will "make £77 million bids for his services at the end of the season."
Wright also claims that "Juve are hoping to deter interest in their prize asset by offering him a new deal with a sizeable buy-out clause."
These rumours are fuelled by Pogba's encouraging recent admission about United to FourFourTwo (h/t Sky Sports), with the 21-year-old stating: "I love the club."
Three years after an acrimonious free-transfer move from the Red Devils, Pogba switching back to United would see the club recognise and rectify a rare transfer mistake, and the midfielder would solve many of their problems.
A return would be similar to that of Matic at Chelsea last season and could be just as important.
Sir Alex Ferguson's Faith and Disrespect
Pogba joined United as a 16-year-old in October 2009, amid controversial allegations from previous club Le Havre.
A statement released by the French club (h/t BBC Sport) before Pogba's eventual departure suggested that United had approached the midfielder's parents and "offered very high sums of money...with the aim of obtaining the transfer of their son."
Such was United's indignation that they were to pursue legal action against Le Havre if their accusations continued, again reported by BBC Sport.
So vast is Pogba's talent that such a tussle was to be expected—Le Havre's compensation will likely not have matched the midfielder's potential quality.
Despite this, Pogba made just three substitute appearances for United in the league under Sir Alex Ferguson, according to SoccerBase.com, and the midfielder grew discontented.
As Pogba told FourFourTwo, this was mainly due to his impatience.
The 21-year-old claimed: "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,' but it never did. It didn't come."
Contrary to this more measured evaluation, Pogba told BBC Sport last May that he felt the club had shown him "disrespect," commenting: "Manchester United is a big club but you have to think about yourself. You have to play. The coach told me there would be space to play, but I wasn't playing. I was training alone for one week."
Whether Ferguson misused the precocious talent, the Manchester club will now be ruing their missed chances, with the midfielder excelling in Serie A.
Pogba at Juventus
So Pogba joined Juventus as a 19-year-old in 2012, and he has since effortlessly imposed himself on a phenomenal midfield that also features Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal.
Early into Pogba's first season in Serie A, James Horncastle wrote for BBC Sport: "After Giuseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique left Old Trafford for Villarreal and Barcelona respectively, he certainly gives the impression of being another star that United fans will unfortunately see shine elsewhere."
In Turin, Pogba has developed into one of world football's most talented all-round central midfielders.
Tall, strong, creative and cerebral, Pogba is a rare breed able to dominant games from the middle of the park.
In 78 appearances so far in Serie A, Pogba has scored 16 goals—a credible feat, given his starting position as a deep-lying midfielder.
Watch Juventus' Paul Pogba score with a superb volley during his side's clash with Napoli, live now on BT Sport 1. https://t.co/TvUebXuPRP— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) January 11, 2015
Particularly outstanding was his volleyed goal in the recent 3-1 victory over Napoli—a move that evoked former Juve midfielder and France icon Zinedine Zidane, a player Pogba should hold as a benchmark.
With his lung-busting midfield surges, Pogba has averaged more successful dribbles per league game than any other Juventus player, with 2.6.
Furthermore, Pogba is the third-most prolific tackler, making 2.4 on average per game, just behind Vidal (3.1) and Marchisio (2.6).
In 2013, Pogba was named as European Golden Boy, as reported by Football Italia, and it is likely that it won't be long before the midfielder is in contention for the Ballon d'Or—he was on the 23-man shortlist for the 2014 award.
Horncastle's 2012 evaluation offers a point that has become increasingly pertinent, as the years without Pogba have transpired that "there remains a sense that a midfield all-rounder like him is just what [Manchester United are] crying out for."
If United were to re-sign Pogba and finally address the gulf in their midfield, it would be with the unsentimental nous that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho summoned when signing Matic from Benfica a year ago.
As BBC Sport reported at the time: "Mourinho quickly identified the defensive midfielder as a key target on his return to Stamford Bridge and the club had no issue with re-signing a player they previously let go."
In the same report, Bleacher Report's Andy Brassell offered the assessment that "Matic is exactly what Chelsea have needed for some time: a specialist at breaking up play in front of the defence."
Mourinho's side are noticeably improved with Matic in the side, and his presence helps Chelsea to win games, as the below statistic shows:
Chelsea recognised their mistake in letting Matic go and addressed it.
Now, United should do the same.
It may be an expensive acquisition, one likely to shatter the £59.7 million they invested in Angel Di Maria last summer, but the progression Pogba has displayed and his clear potential to expand on that should rationalise this somewhat.
As evidenced by the signing of Di Maria, as well as that of Radamel Falcao on loan this season, United have the financial muscle to carry out such a deal too.
Paul Pogba's admiration for the club that allowed him to leave on a free transfer to Juventus in 2012 is clear, and Manchester United must capitalise on that and re-sign the midfielder who has gone on to become one of the world's best away from Old Trafford at just 21 years old.
Statistics via WhoScored.com.