Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, the club’s record signing at £89m and formerly the most expensive player in the world, wants to leave Old Trafford next summer, according to his agent, Mino Raiola. He has claimed his client is unhappy and needs a change of scenery.
Pogba has failed to consistently live up to his billing since his return to United in 2016, too often lacking when it matters most and spending most of the last 18 months injured or short of full match fitness. He obviously has the talent to be one of the best in the world, but it just hasn’t happened.
But whether there is even a market for him is another issue entirely.
United run the risk of losing the player as a free agent in the summer of 2022 if they don’t sell and whatever value he has will only fall as the end of his contract draws nearer.
The problem they will face is that the biggest clubs in Europe either can’t afford him, don’t need him or are going through a transitional phase of their own and can’t guarantee the success or silverware that United haven’t delivered…or a combination of all three.
Here’s a rundown of seven top clubs Pogba could join and an assessment of how likely each is…
7. Bayern Munich
This has really got to be a non-starter because Pogba is not the kind of player that Bayern Munich sign.
The reigning European champions are no stranger to spending money, but their biggest investments in recent years have been on younger players they can develop for the long-term, like Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard and Leroy Sane.
The older established players, which is the bracket a 27-year-old Pogba now falls into, they have signed in the last few seasons have been loan deals – James Rodriguez, Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Perisic and Douglas Costa, for example.
That situation may suit Pogba, but definitely not United, who will lose him on a free transfer in 2022 for sure if he spends the 2021/22 season out on loan.
Transfer Likelihood: 1/10
Barcelona were heavily linked with Pogba in the summer of 2018 when the player appeared to be at the height of his discord with former United boss Jose Mourinho. At one stage, it was even claimed by a report in Italy that he had agreed a five-year deal with the Catalans.
Notwithstanding concerns over whether he is the right type of player for Barcelona and their style, this is surely not a goer.
Barça’s already precarious finances have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing another huge wage cut in recent weeks. There was not even enough liquid cash in the summer to spend on much needed centre-back Eric Garcia, or secure top Ronald Koeman target Memphis Depay.
Presidential candidate Victor Font recently described the financial situation at Camp Nou as ‘critical’, highlighting €400m of debt and warning that no one running in January’s election promising to make big money signings in the near future can be taken seriously.
Transfer Likelihood: 2/10
Inter have become the club that has taken on a number of rejects from elsewhere in recent months, especially mopping up players deemed surplus to requirements by Premier League teams.
There have been success stories like Romelu Lukaku, but also failures like Christian Eriksen. Alexis Sanchez has been far better for Inter than he was at United, while Ashley Young also continues to play fairly regularly for the Nerazzurri a year on from his transfer.
Relations between Inter and United are clearly good for three high profile transfers to happen in the last 18 months, but budget will make a Pogba more difficult deal to pull off.
Although Antonio Conte would probably jump at the chance, Inter might struggle to pay Pogba’s wages and would need to strip away deadwood to be able to afford an approach.
That could always be possible if Lautaro Martinez is to move on in 2021, but there has to be a suitable buyer for the Argentine and that isn’t clear either in current circumstances.
Transfer Likelihood: 3/10
4. AC Milan
Raiola hasn’t had the best relationship with AC Milan in recent years, especially when it comes to home-grown goalkeeper superstar Gianluigi Donnarumma. But he was on good enough terms to arrange a deal to take veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic back there last January.
The presence of Ibrahimovic at San Siro would be a plus for Pogba, having enjoyed playing alongside him during their brief time together in Manchester.
Milan are also very much on the up and are looking to end a decade-long wait for Serie A glory and finally return from years in the wilderness.
The reality when it comes to Pogba is that central midfield is not a priority for the Rossoneri. Their budget is unlikely to cover anything other than a knockdown fee, while the most pressing business matter for the coming months is sorting out Donnarumma’s contract with Raiola.
Transfer Likelihood: 3/10
Pogba made his name at Juventus after leaving Manchester the first time in 2012, but the grass may not be any greener in Turin if he is seriously eyeing a return to his former club.
The cracks are showing at Juve. Andrea Pirlo was once a teammate of Pogba’s, but the rookie coach is struggling to get results and has much less managerial experience than even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Pirlo’s Juve team remain unbeaten in Serie A, but they have drawn half of their games so far, sit fourth in the table and are trailing early leaders Milan by six points already.
Juve also haven’t won the Champions League since 1996 and have been going backwards in Europe’s top competition since reaching the second of two finals in three years in 2017.
Then there are finances. It has been heavily rumoured that Juve want to sell Cristiano Ronaldo because his wages are too much of a burden, while the club has been consistently trying to offload Paulo Dybala to anyone who will listen in recent seasons. Spending on Pogba doesn’t add up.
Transfer Likelihood: 4/10
2. Real Madrid
Real Madrid is a ‘dream’ for both Pogba and Raiola.
Pogba has said more than once that it is his ambition to play for Real Madrid at some point in his career, while Raiola wants to broker a permanent transfer for one of his clients, having previously only arranged a loan move for back-up goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.
Aside from the pull of the club as a whole, the presence of French icon Zinedine Zidane is thought to be a major lure for Pogba. But the reality of the situation now is that Zidane is under increasing pressure at the Bernabeu following a poor start to 2020/21.
Los Blancos are in a transitional phase, with the team that won four Champions League titles in five years ageing and gradually breaking up. But the younger talents brought in are yet to step up.
Real have also been badly burned by their last marquee signing, yet to see the fruits of a €100m investment in Eden Hazard, who is now fast approaching 30.
If Kylian Mbappe is to become available next summer, Real won't be able to afford both and the sensible money is on them prioritising the youngster.
Transfer Likelihood: 5/10
1. Paris Saint-Germain
By process of elimination, Paris Saint-Germain might be the only suitable club for Pogba among Europe’s elite. Yet even that isn’t a clear path.
There are a number of pluses. It would represent a homecoming to Paris, the guarantee of at least domestic silverware, and joining a club that is determined to finally get over the line in the Champions League after reaching the final for the first time in 2020.
Pogba could even back himself to be the difference and make himself a PSG legend. But there is a possibility he would not even be the main transfer priority for the club next summer when there is an opportunity to sign Lionel Messi, who is expected to leave Barcelona.
Even PSG don’t have the resources to sign Messi without financial compromise and have been tipped to shed both Mbappe and Angel Di Maria to make it possible, which would likely mean additional upheaval to make room for Pogba on the Parc des Princes wage bill.
Time in a limited window then becomes a factor, while there is a risk of too much disruption and player turnover having a negative impact.
Transfer Likelihood: 6/10