As the world crisis plunges football into the unknown, Paul Pogba’s future looks even more unclear as we wait for UEFA to discuss player contract and registration deadlines in an emergency meeting today.
But in the absence of a crystal ball and assuming there is to be a completion of the current season followed by a transfer window, where is it looking like Pogba will end up as things stand?
Most of the rumours to date have focussed on three potential outcomes: staying at Old Trafford, moving to Real Madrid or moving to Juventus. Two other possibilities have also been mooted, albeit much less frequently: a move to Inter Milan or to PSG.
Right now, the least likely of all these options for Pogba looks to be a return to Juventus. The Turin side are probably the keenest of the chasing pack to sign the Frenchman, but are in the worst financial position to do so. They have already reportedly balked at both United’s reduced asking price – believed to be around £100 million – and Pogba’s salary demands of around £350,000 per week.
Juve were, according to The Independent, ‘in danger of breaching financial fair play regulations even before the pandemic devastated life in Italy’ and have a huge wage bill including that of Cristiano Ronaldo, believed to be £550,000 per week. It leaves the Italian side struggling to come up with player exchange options as their only way of bringing the 27-year-old back to the club.
A swap deal involving Paulo Dybala looks unlikely as the player turned down the chance of making the switch with Romelu Lukaku going the other way in the summer. The latest suggestion coming out of Italy of a Aaron Ramsey exchange looks just as unlikely, given the player’s dreadful injury record and age – he will turn 30 this year.
The fact of the matter is that all clubs are more than likely to suffer financial losses due to the world crisis and so transfer fees are likely to go down and players are unlikely to get big contract increases. This makes swap deals potentially more likely, but if Pogba is to go to Italy, Inter might be in a better position to sign him for that reason.
The Mirror reported Inter’s interest in the Frenchman back in January. Inter boss Antonio Conte has worked with Pogba before at Juventus and the Nerazzurri do have a player who could be an ideal candidate for an exchange with Pogba – Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez.
Whilst Barcelona are believed to be in pole position to sign the 22-year-old, the predicted financial crisis may mean that they are unable to stump up the £102 million release clause. A similar asking price, a similar salary – a straight swap with Pogba could be a very viable proposition.
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane’s interest in Pogba has never diminished, but the man that holds the purse strings at the Bernabeu, Florentino Perez, is less enthusiastic. Given the likely financial constraints caused by the coronavirus crisis, it is probably much more likely that los Blancos will plump for the less expensive option of Donny Van de Beek this summer, with rumours of a pre-agreed deal for the Dutchman refusing to die down.
Paris St Germain are the only other realistic option for the World Cup winner. There were reports in the summer that Pogba had agreed a huge £429,000 per week contract with the French side but it was dependent on the sale of Neymar from PSG to Barcelona, which fell through. If les Bleu et Rouges manage to offload the Brazilian this summer or Kylian Mbappe moves on, it is very possible that they will return for their country’s star player – but that is a big ‘if’.
That leaves us with the scenario of Pogba staying at Old Trafford, something that seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago. However, the player has seemed more open to the idea of late and it has been reported that talks have opened between his agent Mino Raiola and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward about a contract extension that could potentially keep Pogba at the club until his early thirties.
Of course, if any of Pogba’s suitors come out of the current crisis financially unscathed, the balance will swing in their favour. But unless relations behind the scenes are much worse than are being painted in the press, the clever money right now would be on the Frenchman staying at Old Trafford after all.
While football is on lockdown, try your hand at our quiz below that tests your knowledge about the times when Manchester United or its players have been banned, bombed or blocked from playing.