Football: Devil of a deal to get Pogba to return to Manchester United

Paul Pogba, in action during France's loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, has reportedly shown an interest in returning to Old Trafford, which he left for free four years ago. His club Juventus will not let him go on the cheap, however, with a w
Paul Pogba, in action during France's loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, has reportedly shown an interest in returning to Old Trafford, which he left for free four years ago. His club Juventus will not let him go on the cheap, however, with a world-record transfer fee in the works.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

United may have to splash out record fee for French player who left for free in 2012

LONDON • Paul Pogba has indicated that he is now happy to rejoin Manchester United and that decision could result in a world-record transfer fee for a footballer.

The French midfielder's agent Mino Raiola, who has already overseen the transfers of two of his players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to United in the close season, told Juventus officials on Tuesday that he wants to take Pogba back to the English Premier League.

The Italian-born Dutch football agent reportedly has already agreed a fee with United for bringing back the 23-year-old to the club he left acrimoniously in 2012 and the player is ready to accept the English outfit's contract offer of £250,000 (S$447,500) a week for five years.

Late on Tuesday, Juventus rejected United's first offer for the France international worth a total of £100 million, with £13 million of that in performance-related add-ons.

The Serie A club want United to pay £100 million with a further £8 million in add-ons, which would make the Frenchman the most expensive player ever - exceeding the £85.3 million fee that Real Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale three years ago.

United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who decided to skip the first part of the pre-season tour to China, met Juventus directors Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici, as well as Raiola, on Tuesday to discuss a possible transfer. But he was told that the opening bid fell short of what the Italian club wanted.

  • £108m 

    Juventus' reported asking price for French midfielder Paul Pogba.

More talks were scheduled between the parties yesterday and United have to decide whether they want to spend a world-record fee for the midfielder, who won four Serie A titles in four years with Juventus and reached the 2015 Champions League final with the club.

United are believed to have told Raiola they want to conclude the deal quickly. But it is likely to be completed only if Pogba cuts short his holiday in Miami.

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri had publicly warned Pogba earlier in the week that he should "consider things very carefully" before moving to Manchester as it could mean stepping down from top-level football and missing out on Champions League action.

But with United seemingly the only club willing to pay the kind of money Juventus demand, it could now be Pogba's only recourse if he truly wants to leave the Italian side.

It seems like the midfielder is truly on his way to United, with club manager Jose Mourinho's wife inadvertently confirming the biggest transfer in football history.

The Mirror reported yesterday that eagle-eyed Twitter users reckon they had spotted Pogba's name on a tactics board in Mourinho's office.

Matilde, Mourinho's wife of 27 years and the mother of his two children, took to the social media website to share a picture of her husband on the day he flew to Shanghai for United's pre-season tour.

Alongside the picture, she wrote: "Ready to Beijing."

On the left side of the picture, a tactics board clearly showed a number of players' surnames such as Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Rojo, Martial, Depay and Fellaini.

And the name above Fellaini's appeared to be that of Pogba's.

"Pogba is above Fellaini," one user wrote, while another said: "Pogba it looks like above Fellaini in the midfield."

Woodward left United's tour in 2013 in an attempt to seal a deal for Cesc Fabregas, but the Spaniard opted instead to join Chelsea, who were then managed by Mourinho.

United supporters will be hoping that Woodward is more successful in his pursuit of Pogba.

THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Devil of a deal to get Pogba to return'. Print Edition | Subscribe