Paul Pogba picked the perfect stage to make his comeback for Manchester United as he dragged the side into the Europa League quarter finals with a sublime performance capped with the winning goal against AC Milan on Thursday.
The fact that the match took place in Italy meant that it was under the watchful eye of one of the leading contenders for his signature, Juventus, the club he joined when leaving United as a 19 year old and who sold him back to the Red Devils for a record fee in 2016.
The audition, it seems, had the desired effect. Calciomercato reports that the very sight of ‘the Octopus’ strutting his stuff at the San Siro has led to huge excitement 90 miles down the road in Turin.
‘The Frenchman had not played for six weeks, but it took him three minutes from his entry into the field in the second half to score the winning goal, with the first ball he touched. In the rest of the match, and especially in the excited final minutes, the quality in the dribble of the 28 year old made the difference, with a performance that combined technique with power and experience.
‘The three qualities listed above are characteristics that are notably missing in Juve’s midfield.
‘2020 was supposed to be a good year, but the Covid tragedy changed everyone’s plans, including Juventus’ transfer plans.
‘In a few months, [chief football officer, Fabio] Paratici and [vice chairman, Pavel] Nedved will try the assault again, one year before the Octopus’s contract with United expires (30 June 2022). And this time with some more hope of succeeding, net of sales and with a contractual offer that should be around 8-9 million euros.
‘If the current Italian champions want to return their midfield to the levels of the two Champions League finals reached in 2015 and 2017, a player with Pogba’s specific gravity is indispensable.’
It is surprising to learn that Juve believe they could get Pogba for around £7 million a year, when his current contract with United is £290,000 per week. It also seems unlikely that United would let Pogba go without a significant transfer fee being involved, as it would be better to keep him at Old Trafford for one more season than let him go cheaply. Thursday’s performance will have made United just as keen to keep him as Juventus are to sign him.