Paul Pogba has taken his first steps towards manufacturing a summer transfer from Manchester United, by admitting that it “could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else” in an interview during his promotional tour in Japan.
The French World Cup winner had been heavily linked with moves to Spanish giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus since the turn of the year, and now the 26-year old looks set to push for an Old Trafford exit before the start of the 2019/20 season.
Speaking in the Far East, Pogba said:
“There is a lot of talking and a lot of thinking as well,” the 26-year-old told reporters at a commercial event in Tokyo.
“For me I have been for three years in Manchester and have been doing great; some good moments and some bad moments, like everybody. Like everywhere else.
“After this season and everything that happened this season, with my season being my best season as well, I think for me it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else. I am thinking of this.”
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Pogba’s fractious relationship with United
Pogba, who moved to the Premier League from Juventus for £93.25m in August 2016, has been frustratingly enigmatic since returning to United, regularly mixing moments of match-winning sublimity with lengthy periods of almost complete ineffectiveness.
The mercurial midfielder finished the 2018/19 as United’s top scorer, yet, doubts have always lingered about his levels of commitment during matches and to the club overall.
Labelled a “virus” by Jose Mourinho before the Portuguese manager’s sacking last year, Pogba was championed by new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and backed by United’s support.
However, despite a short spike in form under the Norwegian, fresh speculation over his future and a string of abject domestic and continental performances made Pogba a lightning rod for criticism during the club’s dire finish to the campaign.
Tensions between Pogba and the Old Trafford support reached boiling point in the club’s last match of the season against Cardiff City, and after United were handed one final dose of mortification by the relegated Welshmen, Pogba was singled out and verbally abused by sections of the Stretford End.
Possible Destinations for Pogba
Despite his inconsistencies on the pitch, Pogba has retained his profile as one of football’s most recognizable and marketable figures off it – something that won’t have been lost on his list of big-name suitors.
His marketability is something that United, a club with a major commercial focus, will value just as highly, though the decision makers at Old Trafford will accept that keeping a wantaway player that holds significant dressing room power is a dangerous game.
Pogba’s revelations leave United with yet another complicated issue to deal with this summer, though the club know they hold all the cards ahead of an imminent scramble for his signature.
There are 2 years remaining on Pogba’s current contract and United have the option to trigger an extra year clause on the deal – that means United can play hardball over any potential transfer fee for the 69-times capped Les Bleus international.
So far, both Real Madrid and Juventus have been credited with a major interest in signing Pogba, and the midfielder has plenty of reasons to join either club.
Reports from Spain suggest that Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has pressed home the importance of signing Pogba this summer as part of the club’s major rebuild.
Real have already spent in the region of £300m on new recruits during the current transfer window, bringing Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo to the Spanish capital in a series of money-spinning switches.
Now Los Blancos are intent on adding Pogba to their list of confirmed signings, though Real are believed to be reluctant to part with the fee, believed to be in the region of £150m, that United want for their star player.
Real hope that Pogba’s desire to move to the Bernabéu will help to drive the price down, though United have no reason to lower their demands.
Rumours surfaced in Italy on Friday suggesting that Juventus’ sporting director Fabio Paratici has already travelled to the London offices of Manchester United for face to face talks over the potential transfer of Pogba.
Pogba left the Turin based club 3 years ago to sign for Manchester United, though a return to the club where he enjoyed huge success could appeal to the Frenchman.
The chance to play with Cristiano Ronaldo could also be a major incentive used by Juventus to entice Pogba back to Italy, and Juve are much better equipped in general than United, to compete for the major honours and trophies that Pogba craves.
Like Real Madrid however, Juventus are thought to be unwilling to pay the £150m valuation United are expected to place on Pogba, though a player-plus-cash deal could allow the negotiating clubs to find some middle ground.
United, in desperate need for reinforcements themselves this summer, have already been linked with several Juventus’ employees, including Argentine striker Paulo Dybala, Portuguese fullback Joao Cancelo and Brazilian winger Douglas Costa, and a number of those players could be used as makeweights to sign Pogba.
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