Barca announced late, last night an agreement with Valencia over the signing of Andre Gomes. A player of Jorge Mendes’ stable. And a player who had been ‘promised’ to Jose Mourinho for his rapidly rebuilt United squad.
Mourinho is a fan – and would’ve been happy to welcome his fellow Portuguese to Old Trafford for the new season. But, as he informed Mendes, a deal for Gomes would only be considered if things fell through with Juventus regarding Pogba.
That Gomes will pen a five-year contract with Barca today is a clear sign United’s negotiations with Juve are on track. It’s only a matter of when, not if, Pogba will be putting pen to paper at Old Trafford.
There has been some interference this week. As much as Real Madrid have publicly distanced themselves from any deal, fresh contact was made with Mino Raiola, Pogba’s agent, on the weekend. But as Pogba had already struck personal terms with United, there was little chance of Real getting back in the race. Florentino Perez, the Real president, needed Pogba to be completely on-board to work a move in their favour. Deeming Juve’s world record asking price as “ridiculous”, his one chance of getting a deal done on Real’s terms was for Pogba to kick up a fuss. But with the Frenchman satisfied over the proposal tabled by United, such tactics were never going to get off the ground.
Raiola, while posting his “blah, blah, blah” tweet yesterday, hopped on a jet for Miami last night. There he will be reunited with Pogba, who is holidaying in the ‘States after his excursions with France at the Euros. The deal is now in its final stretch. It’s going to happen. That is, if a certain someone doesn’t mess up – and no, this time, we’re not talking about Ed Woodward.
For the moment, Woodward, United’s vice-chairman exec, and Juve GM Beppe Marotta have an outline of a deal in place. There’s some to-ing and fro-ing over appearance and title winning bonuses, but the agreement is there. The main point of conjecture, now, is Raiola’s fee.
The Italian is due a staggering 25 per cent of any fee generated from Pogba’s sale. Juve have demanded Raiola drop the option completely. For their part, United also see the broker’s terms excessive. A compromise has been mooted, where Raiola reduces the percentage he’s owed. But Juve are unhappy about paying anything to the intermediary, hence why those close to negotiations claim the price could reach as high as Ä130 million including bonuses.
As it stands now, it isn’t the fee or the player which is holding things up, but the bloke who has been busy for the past two months trying to put this thing together.
In Turin, the move is being welcomed.
Those inside Juve cannot voice their approval out loud, but there is a wiling acceptance that selling Pogba is good for the club. Some officials have questioned Pogba’s attitude since the New Year, convinced he has begun to believe his own hype. No matter the potential, €120 million can be put to better use, they claim – quietly.
Outside the club and Juve identities have no problem talking up the prospect of selling – particularly if it involves bringing in Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli.
Former Juve GM Luciano Moggi says Higuain would be “more decisive” in the grand scheme of things and that Pogba can be replaced by Hector Herrera, Porto’s Mexican midfielder, “There’d be nothing lost there”.
Giovanni Cobolli Gigli, the former Juve president, shrugged “players come and go” and let slip that “the player has decided to leave”. The idea of losing Pogba is no catastrophe for the movers and shakers inside the Juve circle. ‘Sell him and buy Higuain’ – to a man, it appears the company line.
A warning for United? No. No-one inside Juve doubts Pogba’s devotion to his craft. And while there’s been periods where he has scratched around for form, no-one at Juve would argue against Pogba improving season after season for the four years he’s been with the club.
For Mourinho, this has been a pursuit lasting over two years. Twice in six months he had Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, table offers for Pogba, only for Juve to resist. That he will land the player after just two months of negotiations on behalf of his new club will be satisfying.
Mourinho will get his hands on the Frenchman at the same age as when he took on Frank Lampard at Chelsea. The similarities do not begin and end there. Both goalscoring midfielders. Both proven leaders. Both driven by ambition and a work ethic that has set them apart from their peers.
For anyone doubting Mourinho can help Pogba meet his potential, the answer is now running around the ‘States in a New York City FC shirt.
Contributed by Chris Beattie of TribalFootball.com