The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba’s potential destinations ahead of the next season.
After a spell out on the sidelines due to an injury, Paul Pogba made his return earlier this week as Manchester United took on AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League. Introduced at half-time for an ineffective and injured Marcus Rashford, it took just a little over two minutes for Pogba to make a telling impact on the proceedings.
The Frenchman scored a clever goal that would prove to be enough for Manchester United to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League. In less than three minutes on his comeback, the 2018 World Cup winner had shown how pivotal he is to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United side.
While all the talk of Bruno Fernandes being the club’s talisman is certainly true, there is no denying that Pogba is equally important to the side. The 28-year-old, when in his elements, oozes class and quality in plenty and has shown that he has that capability to turn any game on its head with one moment of magic.
Unfortunately for Manchester United, those moments had not come all too consistently as Pogba nears the fifth-year anniversary of his second spell at his boyhood club, although that seems to have changed in recent months. However, now that he has been starting to step up and make a difference regularly, the Red Devils are staring at the prospect of losing him in the summer.
Indeed, Pogba will be out of contract at Manchester United in a little over a year. And judging by the comments made by his agent, Mino Raiola, not long ago, the likelihood of him signing an extension looks slim.
It puts Manchester United in a difficult position as the player remains a vital part but the club cannot afford to lose him on a free transfer for the second time, that too in the current market when finances have been affected badly by the pandemic. So, there could be the chance that the Red Devils decide to cash in on him in the summer.
As per Le10 Sport, there seems to be no shortage of suitors for Pogba either, with the likes of Real Madrid, PSG and Juventus lining up to sign him at the end of the season. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at where the French international could possibly end up ahead of the next campaign.
Assessing the transfer situation
Real Madrid feel like a club that is need of a major squad overhaul across all departments. The club needs to find a long-term heir for Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos in attack and defence respectively, while the same holds for the midfield as well, where Luka Modric is fast approaching the final stages of his career.
The Croatian international is still going quite strong but will soon be turning 36 an Real Madrid cannot put off replacing him anymore. Add to it the fact that Toni Kroos is also in his thirties and there remain doubts over the futures of Isco and Martin Odegaard, it becomes imperative that a new central midfielder is brought in at the Bernabeu this summer.
And given that Pogba has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid almost every transfer window since he joined Manchester United, it should not come as a major surprise if the Merengues decide to act on their long-standing interest in the Frenchman. Add to it, the fact that manager Zinedine Zidane is a huge admirer of his compatriot only serves to further fuel the fire.
However, one major stumbling block for Real Madrid in their pursuit of Pogba this summer could be the finances. The Merengues, much like a lot of other La Liga clubs, are going through a bit of a difficult situation on the financial front due to the pandemic and the renovations costs of the Bernabeu.
At a time when they are planning to make superstar additions such as Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland in the summer, a move for Pogba could thus become out of their reach.
Transfer Likelihood: 6/10
Is Real Madrid the right club?
At this point in time, it is no secret that Paul Pogba has held long-standing ambitions to play for Real Madrid, something he has openly spoken about. Add to it, he has also expressed his wishes of working with French legend Zidane as well, so if Real Madrid come calling, we can expect Pogba to jump the ship without batting an eyelash.
At the club, he will be surrounded by world-class players and will compete for top honours year in year out. Add to it, the French connection with those like Raphael Varane (provided he stays at the club beyond the season), Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema and Zidane should also help him make a smooth and easy transition as well.
While he may not exactly be a like-for-like replacement for Modric, the 28-year-old has proven his quality time and again, while his success with the French national team has provided enough evidence that he can be a leader of the team on and off the pitch as well.
Approval Rating: 7/10
Assessing the transfer situation
Winds of change are afoot at PSG as Mauricio Pochettino has taken over the reins of the club earlier this January following the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. So, the manager will be looking to make some changes to the squad to build a team in his own image come summer, and midfield is one area where he must certainly look to reinforce.
While PSG have an abundance of options in midfield – Marco Verratti, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Danilo Pereira and Rafinha Alcantara – none among them apart from Verratti can be categorised as a world-class operator. Furthermore, almost each of those, again apart from Verratti, are more defence-minded players as well.
So, the onus of creativity usually falls on the wide players in Neymar and Angel Di Maria – something that needs to change for the club to be able to achieve the dream of the Champions League triumph. And, adding someone of Pogba’s qualities and calibre could bring in that change for Les Parisiens.
In him, Pochettino will have a world-class operator who can form a scintillating partnership alongside Marco Verratti, who can go on to dominate teams in games, taking PSG to greater heights and more success, even perhaps, the elusive European glory as well. Besides, despite the pandemic, the French champions are one of the few clubs who can afford to pay a big transfer fee and meet his hefty wages.
Transfer Likelihood: 9/10
Is PSG the right club?
As mentioned with Real Madrid, the Frenchman will constantly be challenging for top honours, and winning more often than not, given PSG’s domination on the domestic front. Given that they have shown pedigree in the Champions League in the last season and this term, Pogba’s addition could then become the key to taking the next big step.
As for how he could fit in under Pochettino, Pogba could slot in as part of the midfield double pivot and play a role similar to what Mousa Dembele used to do for Tottenham under the Argentine, alongside a more defence-minded player, with Verratti occupying the No. 10 role – something that Pogba is accustomed to doing while representing the France national team.
Alternatively, he could also be used as a No. 10 with little defensive responsibility, with Verratti operating as the deep-lying playmaker. Besides, for any footballer, playing in his homeland brings out a special feeling. And joining PSG would allow Pogba to experience that feeling as he would be returning to France for the first time in his professional club career.
Considering all factors, this is a move that would make a lot of sense for both PSG and Pogba.
Approval Rating: 9/10
Assessing the transfer situation
It has been close to five years since Pogba made the move from Juventus to Manchester United now. And during that period, not one transfer window has gone by during which reports of the Bianconeri’s interest in signing him back haven’t made the rounds.
And the rumour mill is once again abuzz with the same speculations as Juventus struggle in their first season under former club icon Andrea Pirlo. Someone who watched Pogba closely and helped develop him as a player during their playing days together at Juventus, Pirlo is said to be intent on working with Pogba again.
And it goes without saying that Juventus could certainly use someone of his ilk in their midfield department. Under Pirlo, the burden of chance-creation has largely fallen on the shoulders of young winger Federico Chiesa, with the midfield, comprising of the likes of Rodrigo Bentancur, Adrien Rabiot, Weston McKennie and Aaron Ramsey offering little in terms of creative output.
With Arthur Melo battling with injuries in his first season at Juventus and the futures of Ramsey and Rabiot uncertain, a marquee addition like Pogba to the midfield department can do wonders for the Serie A champions. However, finances could scupper their chances of bringing the Frenchman back to the club.
The club are already having to decide whether to offload some of their biggest earners to maintain financial stability. So, unless someone like Cristiano Ronaldo or Paulo Dybala end up leaving, chances are slim that they could afford to have Pogba on their wage bill as well unless he is willing to take a major pay cut.
Transfer Likelihood: 6/10
Is Juventus the right club?
Juventus have had quite a few problems in Pirlo’s debut season as manager, the lack of creative impetus from midfield being one. With none of the options at his disposal currently, apart from Arthur to an extent, being known for their chance-creating abilities someone like Pogba would become the centre-piece of the team should he decide to return to the club.
His potential partnership with someone like Ronaldo, provided the Portuguese maverick stays beyond the current season, can be an exciting prospect for the club as well as Pogba himself, given their common Manchester United connection.
Furthermore, Pogba would be walking into a club that he knows inside out and with a manager who knows what he can bring to the table and enjoyed a healthy relationship with during their days as teammates on the field. So, a return to Turin would make a lot of sense for the Frenchman. Again, that could come with the caveat of him having to take a pay-cut ,though.