COMMENT: Paul Pogba again in a Manchester United shirt? Could it happen? Yes. And it won’t be down to money…
It emerged in the English press on Saturday, United vice-chairman exec Ed Woodward is to try again for Pogba this summer. In present circumstances, it looks a fruitless mission. Some cynics would even say nothing more than a PR exercise.
Why would the Frenchman swap Juventus, where he has just won a fourth Scudetti, for a middling Premier League club on a backward trend? Why? Well, one man – Jose Mourinho.
United, in its present state, has no chance of tempting Pogba back to Manchester. Indeed, there’s a greater chance of him wearing the Sky Blue of Manchester City next season, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, than there is of him agreeing to return to United.
But if Mourinho was to succeed Louis van Gaal, all that would change.
For the past two summers, Mourinho has made attempts to bring Pogba back to England.
“I believe that everyone has an interest in Pogba. But there are things you can do and others that you cannot do. I like the Eiffel Tower, but I can not have it in my garden. Pogba is one of the best players in the world. Wherever he goes, he will improve the team. If he remains with Juve, Juve will be even stronger. If he goes, he will improve immediately his new team.”
Mourinho stated the above last summer. Backed by Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, the Londoners tried everything to convince Pogba about an England return. The Russian, on Mourinho’s recommendation, first made an attempt to open negotiations last season during the January market, but Juve, on their way to a Champions League final, refused to do business.
Abramovich tried. Mightily so. An €85 million offer was then presented to Juve in August. To Pogba, a package worth €12 million-a-year was tabled. Mino Raiola, the midfielder’s flamboyant agent, wasn’t against the move and travelled to his home in Turin over two days to talk it over. But Pogba insisted he wasn’t ready to jump ship. Particularly after being awarded the No10 shirt by the Juve board. The gesture, made just weeks previously, had touched Pogba. He just wouldn’t consider quitting after receiving such an honour.
But a year’s an eternity in football – especially when sponsors get involved.
If there’s one player Mourinho wants to work with, it’s Paul Pogba. And making things all the more intriguing is the involvement of adidas.
That promise of a big name signing to celebrate their partnership with United remains unfulfilled. To have their stable’s brightest young star running around in the shirt of their biggest client would be a dream come true. And to do so at Chelsea’s expense, after their agreement was dramatically ripped up last week, would make it all the more enjoyable.
Adidas have been vocal this season about their partnership with United – and particularly critical of the football dished up by Van Gaal. Tribalfootball.com was informed over the New Year that the desire to place an adidas-sponsored marquee name at United was a priority. And it remains so. If Pogba is persuaded to make an Old Trafford return, adidas’ fingerprints will be found all over the negotiations.
As much as adidas’ involvement will facilitate talks, the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson is an obstacle. But not insurmountable. Should the inevitable indeed happen and Mourinho succeeds Van Gaal, it will be a sure sign to Pogba and Raiola that the Scot’s influence on the day-to-day running of Carrington is waning.
“He said ‘your time will come’ but it never did. It didn’t come. But it does not mean I will speak ill of Manchester United. I love the club,” Pogba has said of Ferguson in past interviews. Like his client, Raiola has also been careful to leave the door ajar.
“Paul has always said he is not angry with Manchester United – you need to move on. So there is no personal grudge against Manchester United. On the contrary, he holds Manchester United very dear and has very nice memories,” says the agent.
So, the opportunity is there; to work with Mourinho; to have his status with adidas upgraded; And to have the biggest club in the world build their new-look team around him. It’s a heady mix. And Mourinho can yet go even one better – and it’s something Van Gaal could never offer Pogba.
Where the Dutchman, on Friday, was accusing Paul Scholes of undermining him. Forewarning that if he was to be sacked, it would be because of the United legend. Mourinho, in contrast, is eager to have Scholes on his backroom staff.
“Paul Scholes,” replies Pogba when asked to nominate a role-model. “Scholsey. His right foot. It was perfectly tuned. He could shoot ten times, and the ball would end up in the same spot ten times.”
For all the club’s decline, Manchester United can still conjure up a package attractive enough to at least get Pogba and Raiola to the negotiating table. But it can only happen if Woodward stops ignoring the undeniable.
There’s one man who can bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. And it’s isn’t the geezer with the clipboard.
Contributed by Chris Beattie of Tribalfootball.com