Football: Mourinho awaits final piece of jigsaw

Manchester United's head coach Jose Mourinho looks on as he prepares to answer a question during a press conference ahead of the 2016 International Champions Cup football match between Manchester United and Dortmund in Shanghai on July 21.
Manchester United's head coach Jose Mourinho looks on as he prepares to answer a question during a press conference ahead of the 2016 International Champions Cup football match between Manchester United and Dortmund in Shanghai on July 21. PHOTO: AFP

Red Devils coach coy over identity of potential signing, but says target is locked in

SHANGHAI • Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho admitted yesterday that the English Premier League football club need one more signing before the season starts, but would not confirm it would be record target Paul Pogba.

According to The Guardian, United made a second offer of £92 million for the France midfielder on Wednesday, with Juventus rejecting their first offer of £87 million plus add-ons on Tuesday.

The Italian club have accepted £92 million (S$164.5 million) after initially saying they would let the player go only for £100 million. In addition, they demanded United pay the player's agent Mino Raiola an £18.4 million fee - including Juventus' part - to seal the deal.

According to the newspaper, United also agreed to buy Pogba's commercial rights and pay him an extra £4.2 million a year, taking his earnings to £290,000 a week.

Mourinho was asked directly at a news conference in Shanghai, during the club's pre-season tour of China, whether he could confirm the report.

MUM'S THE WORD

I don't confirm and I don't deny. I cannot tell you.

'' JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, on whether the recruitment of Paul Pogba is a done deal.

"I don't confirm and I don't deny. I cannot tell you," the Portuguese manager said on the eve of the International Champions Cup match against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai. "I don't think it's correct to speak about players of other clubs. He's a Juventus player and not a Manchester United player.

"The only thing I can tell you is that my board, my directors, they did fantastic work to do 75 per cent of the job I asked them to do.

"I asked them for four players. To be more accurate, I asked them for four or five players I need.

"I gave them a few options and they did for me 75 per cent of the job with (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, (Henrikh) Mkhitaryan and (Eric) Bailly and they have just 25 per cent to do until the 31st of August.

"We are calm. We have three faces to fill. I am confident Mr (Ed) Woodward (United's executive vice-chairman) will get the player we need to get a good balance."

Mourinho had reportedly made Pogba, 23, his top transfer target as he bids to make a big impact in his first season at Old Trafford. But it could cost the club much more than the previous world-record fee of £85 million Real Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale in 2013.

Yesterday, the Portuguese warned Juventus that United have other options if they fail to sign Pogba. The Frenchman was allowed to leave Old Trafford for the Italian giants on a free transfer in 2012 while still a teenager, having made a handful of appearances under then-manager Alex Ferguson, who slammed the player for showing no respect to the club.

Paris Saint-Germain's Blaise Matuidi and Chelsea's Nemanja Matic, who played under Mourinho at Chelsea, could be other options.

Mourinho has already spent more than £50 million on defender Bailly from Villarreal and midfielder Mkhitaryan from today's opponents Dortmund, as well as recruiting Ibrahimovic, who left PSG on a free transfer.

But the manager is still holding out for his fourth summer signing to complete his rebuilding job.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2016, with the headline 'Mourinho awaits final piece of jigsaw'. Print Edition | Subscribe