Paris St-Germain’s signing of Lionel Messi could signal the end of the club’s Paul Pogba flirtations – for now.
The Manchester United ace has entered the last 12 months of his current deal and getting him to extend his stay has proved to be an elusive task.
Speculation about his future bubbled up again last season, with his agent, Mino Raiola, reiterating his client’s determination to leave Old Trafford behind.
That the announcement was dropped on the eve of United’s elimination from the Champions League was seen in some quarters as an appallingly ill-timed contributing factor.
PSG have been touted as a likely destination for much of this summer, with a slew of reports suggesting that a deal could be at various stages of advancement.
However, Sky Sports now claim that a post-Messi PSG would need to sanction the sales of up to 10 players to finance the kind of deal that could secure Pogba’s services and balance the books.
With the French maestro free to sign a pre-contract for a new club from January, it seems likely that speculation will continue to whirl around his future plans for some time.
The Norwegian is under intense pressure to translate his squad’s rich potential into actual silverware next season. It’s widely seen as being the make-or-break next step for his emerging group.
He’ll need a united front and a clear head to steer his side towards that silverware. The last thing he needs is for the Pogba circus to dominate media chatter and side-track on-field focus.
The Reds’ boss would almost certainly have preferred for the current detente to be resolved, one way or another.
As it stands, it’s likely that he’s neither entirely convinced of Pogba’s ongoing commitment, nor is he in a position to cash in and find a long-term replacement. He’s in limbo.
Likewise, the club’s hierarchy must be experiencing dread-laced deja vu over the prospect of losing their much-heralded star man on a free for a second time. #Pogoff isn’t the kind of trend the media-savvy Reds would embrace.
However, it’s fair to assume that, with Mino Raiola on hand to prod the hornet’s nest, unwanted headlines probably won’t be too far away.
And, as Pogba’s value plummets, the Italian’s stock – and share in his client’s future – continue to rise. What’s good for Pogba and his agent probably won’t be good for United.
It all adds up to a curiously modern fable that seems to exist at the intersection of some of present-day football’s most niggling neuroses.
There’s the divisive media brand being jangled merrily along by the seemingly malign influence of the puppeteer agent. The faded glamour club trying to keep their heads above oil-slicked water. The tension between ownership and free movement.
And, underneath it all, the exhausting public narrative that seems destined to drag on without end, swallowing up the sport to which it belongs, to the satisfaction of very few.