“Paul Pogba is unhappy at Manchester United and has to change teams in the next transfer window.”
So says his agent Mino Raiola, a man in the past described by Sir Alex Ferguson, publicly as a “shit-bag”.
It won’t be a moment too soon for many United fans who see the club’s record signing as anything but a positive influence at the club.
There is still a lobby who see it differently of course, but despite Pogba retaining the ability to strike the type of goal he did on Saturday at West Ham, his supporters are becoming fewer and farther between.
That’s the infuriating thing about Pogba. He has that innate, God-given gift to produce such magic, but the other side of the argument points to lack of discipline, leadership and the fact that those magic moments are far too rare to balance up the equation.
Perhaps he never had a chance at United playing for a coach like Mourinho. Perhaps Mourinho, who appeared constantly to be wrestling to overturn his star player’s weaknesses, never had a chance in trying to manage Pogba?
The wrong combination? Probably.
But at least for Mourinho, who once declared Pogba could be ‘the heart of the club’, you can witness his reincarnation at Tottenham. The north London side will probably not become champions in 2021, but the Portuguese has already done much to dispel recent criticisms of his methods being outdated and his inability to adapt.
But you do wonder if Pogba can go elsewhere and hit the heights of old. He may of course, but it’s certainly not going to happen at Old Trafford.
He’s looked lethargic, playing when the mood takes him, giving away careless and needless penalties when it doesn’t. Or simply just lacking discipline when United is devoid of possession. And that’s if he plays at all.
Last season a foot injury was so troubling it restricted him to one goal in 16 appearances, although it didn’t prevent Pogba's well-publicized dance routine appearing on social media. Saturday’s goal was his first in 8 appearances (5 starts) this season.
United weren’t firing on Saturday with Pogba starting the game. It was only when Bruno Fernandes was introduced at half-time that a hint of renaissance appeared.
Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer, who nurtured the player in both men’s previous spells at Manchester United in the reserve team, has been tolerant and patient. Neither virtue has been rewarded by the French World Cup winner.
Perhaps also that Pogba never had a chance at United as they were not only seeking a big-name talent, but a leader. And while the Frenchman carried dressing room influence, it paled into insignificance when it came to football. Social media, clothes and hairstyle, yes. Football, no!
Pogba’s penchant for playing for himself and lack of on-field influence over his team-mates is in stark contrast to the impact made by Bruno Fernandes since the Portuguese joined United. The difference is chalk and cheese.
You must also look at the role of Pogba’s agent, probably the main reason why Ferguson was less perturbed than he should’ve been, when the player opted to leave for Juventus at the end of his first spell at United. Although to be fair, the United supremo was annoyed at Pogba too at that time.
Raiola has made huge money from United and Juventus on Pogba transfers, and he’ll look to do so again. He will have the next club already lined up.
I wouldn’t doubt that Raiola has managed the financial side of Pogba’s career well on behalf of the player, but when it comes to mentorship, he’s probably the main reason why Pogba’s raw talent will never develop to the level it should.
That penny may or may not drop with Pogba one day. If it does you can expect more than a tinge of regret to emerge.
United have been smart in having Pogba extend his current deal a few months ago, which ensures they’ll recoup most of their financial outlay on the player. They may even make a small profit, but it’s hard to be certain in uncertain times.
Raiola told Tuttosport: “He [Pogba] has to change teams; he has to change the air.
“He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half, but I think the best solution for the parties is to sell him in the next market.”
Raiola also said it had not been Pogba’s “intention” to extend his contract.
Pogba has made no secret of his desire to play for Real Madrid, even stating it during a press conference recently when with his national team.
If I were United, I would pay for his Spanish lessons!