Paul Pogba left Manchester United as a free agent in the summer of 2012, which at the time was considered a loss for United and then manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Pogba left for Juventus, signing as a free agent which meant that United would only receive compensation for the development of the player whilst he was part of the academy, which stood at £800,000, leaving the club at the age of 19. Pogba made his first team debut for United in the 2011/12 season, making a total of seven appearances, playing in the Premier League, the Carling Cup and the UEFA Europa League – playing a total of 195 minutes of football.
Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola seemed to open his mouth again, negatively (in relation to United) regarding Pogba’s future at the Old Trafford club. He gave the impression that the Frenchman wants to leave the club, which could well be the case. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano covered the quotes from Italian news source Tuttosport which talked about Erling Braut Haaland and Pogba even talking about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The comments came just over 24 hours before United’s UEFA Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in Germany which is a make or break match for United. Raiola was quoted as saying:
“[Erling Braut] Haaland is like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic when he was 20. [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer is a good guy but he was wrong when he said that Erling is like [Romelu] Lukaku… it would be better if Solskjaer thought about finding a way to make [Paul] Pogba play like a champion, instead of talking about Haaland.
“Haaland is like a painting, he is like Munch’s Scream because he causes fear in the defenders. He called me after being substituted at 85: he had scored four goals, he wanted to score another. He was furious! He wants to be the best also if he’s playing checkers.
“I can’t talk about Haaland release clause. Rumors say Real Madrid want him? This is not new to me… but he is very happy with Borussia Dortmund. Erling wants to win the UEFA Champions League. When he’ll leave the club, it will be for his ambition and not for money.
“Maybe Juventus could be Pogba’s next club… why not? The relationship between Paul, Juventus and former teammates is excellent. But with the Covid impact, many clubs can’t sign him. For sure, it’s time to leave Manchester United.”
Raiola stated that Solskjaer should be finding a way for Pogba to play like a champion. Surely that would be down to Pogba to do that. Over the past few seasons, Pogba has been average for United which is a problem for both the player and the club. If Pogba was all that his agent thinks that he is, surely United would not have had to sign both Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek over the last two transfer windows (January 2020 and Summer 2020). Gary Neville tweeted on Monday evening, suggesting that Pogba will have know about Raiola’s comments and if not, he should be coming forward with a statement to distance himself.
A lot of United supporters have been less than impressed with Pogba’s performances for the club over the past few seasons. In the 2018/19 season, Pogba scored 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 appearances – which was the best season he has ever had for a club. At the time, it seemed like a defining moment for positivity but turned into what seems like the peak of his career. The following season saw him on the sidelines through injury for the majority of it and this season, he has been less than impressive when he has played. It seems that Pogba sees other people to blame for his demise, when he would be the first person to apportion blame to.
Before Fernandes signed for United, Pogba would most likely be the player that player in the number ten role at the club, which is a position he had played in for a lot of the time under Jose Mourinho. But with Fernandes’ start to life at United, Pogba would have to settle for a role out of that area either in a midfield diamond or a midfield two, playing in a pivot role. This is clearly not good enough for Pogba or his agent. Not that long ago, France manager Didier Deschamps criticised United for how they were treating Pogba only for the player to play in a similar position for France and perform poorly for his country.
Up until today, Tuesday 8 December 2020, Pogba has played 170 times since making his return to the club in the summer of 2016. He has scored 34 goals and 35 assists playing 13,482 minutes of football. Statistically, this means that the Frenchman has offered 0.2 goals per appearance and 0.41 goal contributions (goals and assists) per appearance. He has offered one goal every 397 minutes with a goal contribution every 195 minutes. Some may think there are great stats but for a player that only seems to want to be the main man in the team, the stats are quite poor.
Fernandes has been at United since the end of January, not even spending a full calendar year at the Old Trafford club yet and has better stats than Pogba. The Portuguese midfielder has made 38 appearances for the club, scoring 22 goals and 15 assists in 2,987 minutes of football. This means that Fernandes has scored 0.58 goals per match and 0.97 goal contributions (goals and assists) every appearance. He has scored a goal every 136 minutes, with a goal contribution every 81 minutes. This is why Fernandes is the player that will most often play in the number ten role at the club.
If Pogba wants to take this position, he will need to out perform Fernandes or at least show that he is capable of doing what the Portuguese midfielder does, which does not seem all that likely, in my opinion. It is a shame that this is happening. Pogba seemed excited to return to United four years ago but the summer before last showed that he wanted a change, which also suggests that everything he said in 2016 was just for the sake of saying something, not saying it with meaning. United need to deal with Pogba in the right way, ensuring that they are not lumbered with a player that does not want to be there.
The question would be who would want him and who could afford him? The footballing world is still aiming to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters are just starting to return to matches in small numbers and it will be a long time before clubs start to recover financially from this. Juventus are said to be interested in re-signing the Frenchman but at this moment in time, it seems unlikely that they could afford him without adding a player, or a number of players, in a possible deal. That could easily be scuppered as United will not necessarily want players in exchange for the Frenchman. A cash deal would be next to impossible.
There have been suggestions of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the Old Trafford club, so if United were interested in making that happen, there could be some interest in the deal but it would not necessarily be a great deal for United, given the age of the Portuguese winger and the fact his resale value will greatly reduce over time so United would be wise to ask for the player plus cash for a deal to happen. Pogba has also been linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona over the past few summers and it would seem that both clubs would find a possible deal for the Frenchman hard to make possible – for the same reason as Juventus.
It is an unfortunate situation for Pogba and United to be in. Pogba’s contract would be set to expire in the summer of 2021 but when he signed his contract in the summer of 2016, there was a clause added for a further year, which has seemingly been activated, although there has been no confirmation from the Old Trafford club regarding this. Ideally, if Pogba wanted to stay at United and ‘finish what he started’, he should get rid of his agent and concentrate on his career not some pipe dream that Raiola has been telling him about – of course, that is just my opinion, not an actual fact. I don’t think Raiola is a positive role model.
Written by John Walker