Paul Pogba’s future at Old Trafford is more unclear than ever after more reports that the Frenchman could be on his way out of Manchester United this summer.
According to the Daily Mail, Jose Mourinho is ready to cut ties with the mercurial midfielder – despite his match-winning heroics in the Manchester derby earlier this month.
Pogba is all peaks and troughs and though he hit the heights against Manchester City, he was yanked off shortly after half-time in the dismal defeat against West Brom that handed United’s bitter rivals the title.
The 25-year-old’s talent is in no question – but which team would be willing to take on a player who will still command something like the £89 million fee he was bought for?
A team that has mighty high expectations but has flattered to deceive at many points this year – on the face of it Real Madrid and Pogba go hand-in-hand.
There is little doubt that Los Blancos will be causing a wave – if not a tsunami – in the transfer market this year, as keeping the status quo has seen them fall drastically behind in La Liga this season.
In midfield is where much of Real’s problems stem from. Toni Kroos has looked like a relative passenger for much of the year and Luka Modric, at 32, will need more rotation as his physical powers wane.
There’s no like-for-like fit, though. Remove Kroos and you remove a key part of Real’s possession retention. Modric is more of a free spirit – but is Pogba an upgrade? And Casemiro’s the obvious anchor.
Zinedine Zidane already has problems fitting an outrageous talent such as Isco into his starting XI and it’s easy to see the same issues cropping up with Pogba.
Madrid’s pursuit of a player – ie. Robert Lewandowski – to replace Karim Benzema is also likely to take up much of their attentions this summer. Given their wage bill, dishing out dosh on multiple Galacticos per summer seems a thing of the past, too.
There’s no doubt what PSG are desperate for, five Ligue 1 titles in six seasons or not. It’s Champions League or bust every year until they finally win it.
Midfield is also an obvious area for improvement for the Parisians. They’ve got their diamond-studded attack with Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, but the fact that they needed to sign a 33-year-old Lassana Diarra midseason – last seen in the UAE with Al Jazira – only underlines the fact their stocks in that department are not overwhelming.
They have got the players in Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot, Thiago Motta and indeed Diarra to sit slightly behind a free-roaming Pogba – and that combination with Neymar would be Champions League-winning material.
The one major obstacle from stopping the Frenchman returning to his natural habitat is the cloudiness surrounding PSG’s FFP status.
Some reports say that UEFA may come crashing down on them like a ton of bricks due to their apparent over-inflated sponsorship deal. Still, they’ve managed to bend the rules for this long …
After falling out of favour with Fergie, Juventus was the club that welcomed Pogba with open arms – and they’d certainly embrace him again if the opportunity presented itself.
The Serie A giants are currently in limbo, too good for Italy yet not good enough for the Champions League. A little more star quality could give them that final push.
What’s changed since Pogba left two years ago? Juventus possess a more menacing attack with Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic throwing their weight around, while Douglas Costa has been a revelation since joining from Bayern Munich.
Pogba’s supporting cast in midfield would have improved too, with Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi both proving hits – and that trio could strike the right balance.
Juve could also raise cash by selling the prodigiously talented if frustrating (sound familiar) Paulo Dybala for a fee that would surely clear £100m when all is said and done.
But would using all that cash on one player truly be the best way to freshen up an aging squad like Juve’s? Of the starting XI that so nearly knocked Real out of the Champions League, seven were aged 30 or over.
Returning to the Old Lady also represents a step back for Pogba, with the earning power that the Premier League offers. It depends on where his priorities lie.
Prime targets are said to be £40million midfielders Jorginho of Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred, as the Spaniard looks to reinforce at least three positions during the transfer window.
Having overseen an estimated £448million in deals during his two seasons at the Etihad, Guardiola’s summer splurge could also see a bid for Monaco’s £90m-rated forward Thomas Lemar, while City could have another shot at Leicester‘s £60million winger Riyad Mahrez.
All of the above could be kicked into the long grass by the outcome of a watchdog investigation into City’s acquisition of youngster Benjamin Garre, however.
The Daily Telegraph says City could be banned from registering players for the next two seasons if the Court of Arbitration for Sport sides with his former club, Velez Sarsfield, who claimed the Sky Blues acted unethically by approaching him when he was 15.
According to The Times City will try and persuade Guardiola to stay until 2020. With one year left on his £15million-a-year, three-year contract City chiefs are set to hold talks with the 47-year-old at the end of the season over an extension.
Guardiola is said to be disinclined on staying at any single club for an extended period of time and was at Bayern Munich for three years before arriving in Manchester in 2016.
According to the Times, City are confident they will be able to secure his services for an extra 12 months, which would equal his four-year spell in charge of Barcelona.
Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is set to put off talks over a new deal after falling down United’s pecking order, The Sun reports. With two years left on his £70,000-a-week contract and an option to extend by 12 months, United chiefs are said to want to secure the 20-year-old’s services on new terms.
However, with Mourinho undoubtedly aiming to inject vigour into the Red Devils with some big signings over the summer, the forward faces being further overlooked.
Hopes to bring Bordeaux youngster Malcom to north London appear to have been dashed again after the midfielder said joining Paris St Germain would be his “dream”, according to the Mail Online.
The 21-year-old had been linked with Arsenal and Tottenham, although a move to the Premier League over the summer is looking increasingly unlikely as his heart appears set on continental football.
The £44million-rated Brazilian had previously voiced aspirations to join Bayern Munich, although he told beIN Sports: “PSG is the dream too.”
Players to watch
Tom James: Aston Villa and Celtic are interested in the Yeovil defender, 22, according to the Bristol Post.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: Liverpool’s 19-year-old defender has been rewarded with improved terms after racking up a number of appearances, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Clement Lenglet: The £39million Liverpool target, 22, could be coaxed away from Sevilla by Barcelona, according to Football Talk.
Though the summer transfer window is still a few months away, that hasn’t stopped the rumours of players potentially being on the move.
Across the world of football, there remains plenty of activity and stories that have football fans talking.
Here, we look at the latest transfer deals that could happen when the market reopens in June.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho is ready to let the club’s record signing leave this summer, Daily Mail reports.
Mourinho has reportedly run out of patience with the Frenchman – who only re-joined the club from Juventus in August 2016 – and has included him in a list of players who can be sold as he attempts to bridge the gap on new Premier League champions Man City.
Pogba’s relationship with Mourinho has deteriorated since the turn of the year, and the 25-year-old has been left on the bench or taken off in seven of his last 11 games, including Sunday’s loss at home to West Brom.
Arsenal are tracking the progress of the elusive Benfica winger and will watch the 21-year-old in action against Estoril Praia on Saturday, O Jogo reports.
The Serbian international has become a mainstay for Rui Vitoria’s side after impressing during the second half of the season, making 12 starts and scoring three goals.
Widely considered one of the best young talents in Europe, Zivkovic has pace to burn, strong playmaking ability and can create chances.
With 15 months to run on his current contract, Manchester United, PSG and Borussia Dortmund have also expressed an interest in his services.
Liverpool are tracking the £57 million-rated (Dh291m) Napoli midfielder ahead of a possible summer move, according to reports in Italy.
Jurgen Klopp is said to be a long-term admirer of the Polish international who has been a vital cog in a finely tuned Partenopei machine this season, scoring eight goals and providing one assist in all competitions.
And according to Tutto Mercato Web, the Reds are set to move for the 23-year-old who still has three years to run on his current deal at Stadio San Paolo.