Paul Pogba’s future has been a topic of discussion practically from the moment he arrived back at Old Trafford half a decade ago.
Now with just one year left on his contract, Manchester United (and Pogba himself) are faced with a decision on the Frenchman’s future.
What are Manchester United’s options?
Pogba’s world-class ability has rarely been in question over the past five years in Manchester, but his commitment has.
The French midfielder’s undoubted quality was once again on full display for his national side at Euro 2020.
His performances earned him many plaudits and further ignited discussion about his club future beyond the tournament.
Manchester United may not have the consistent world-beater they would have hoped for when they re-signed Pogba for a record fee but there are many reasons the Red Devils may want to keep him around.
First and foremost, from a financial standpoint, Pogba is a valuable asset.
At 28 years of age, Pogba should be reaching his peak and Manchester United will be reluctant to take a (second) loss on their hefty investment.
That leaves them with two options: pin him down to a new contract or sell him before his contract expires next summer.
Agree to a new contract
This option may sound easy in practice but is far from it.
There are a lot of potential difficulties when contemplating a new deal for the World Cup winner, not least Pogba’s notoriously difficult agent, Mino Raiola.
There have been noises about a proposed move away from Old Trafford for some time now with Raiola making his feelings clear on multiple occasions.
Pogba earns a significant salary at United and would demand a similarly lucrative deal.
Given the limited amount of silverware Manchester United have been actively competing for over the past five years, money may not be the sole motivator either.
Pogba, like any other top footballer, will have aspirations of competing for league titles and Champions League titles.
Currently the former is possible but unlikely whilst the latter is a considerable longshot and there are sides better equipped to do both that would likely welcome Pogba’s contribution.
Lastly on the contract front, Manchester United have to way up the advantages of extending his deal.
As mentioned, Pogba’s performances have rarely been consistent since returning to England, and offering a new contract would likely see him tied down well into his 30s.
By that stage, his sell-on value will have depleted significantly so any hope of recovering some of that former world record transfer fee will have vanished along with a likely £300k+ a week.
As such, there are suggestions that United cut their losses, thank Pogba for his occasionally brilliant contributions, and part ways now.
Sell Pogba this summer
There is little room in football for sentimentality, especially when decisions like this have such far-reaching implications.
Pogba’s return hasn’t quite been the fairytale United fans had hoped for but it hasn’t been a total disaster either.
Their number six has contributed to a Europa League win and FA Cup triumph whilst back in Manchester and is still highly regarded by Europe’s elite.
Selling Pogba this summer would allow the club to cash in on a valuable asset whose commitment wavers at best.
Should United dig their heels in and fail to agree on a new contract, Pogba could leave for half of what they could get now in six months, or for free next summer.
That is an enormous gamble to take on a player that has often flattered to deceive.
Where would Pogba go?
Given his extraordinary wages and prospective transfer fee, there are a very select number of elite clubs who could feasibly sign Pogba in the coming months.
As it stands, the frontrunners for his signature are as follows:
- PSG – 5/1
- Juventus – 5/1
- Real Madrid – 10/1
- Barcelona – 20/1
- Bayern Munich – 33/1
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In terms of money, few clubs, if any, are better equipped to land Pogba’s signature.
PSG already have world superstars Kylian Mbappé and Neymar on their books and are certainly not shy to splash the cash.
Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, and Gini Wijnaldum are at various stages of signing for the French giants who clearly mean business this summer.
After losing out to Bayern Munich in the 2019/20 Champions League final, and falling at the semi-final stage last year, PSG are making a concerted effort to finally win the UCL.
Being pipped to the League title by Lille only adds more fuel to the transfer fire.
The move makes sense from Pogba’s perspective, returning to his native France with the prospect of a pay rise to boot.
A competitive side filled with some of the world’s best players is certainly a tempting prospect.
Equally likely (according to bookies) is a return to Turin with Juventus, the club he left back in 2016.
Just like PSG, Juventus have been making obvious strides towards winning the Champions League.
Coincidentally, Juve also relinquished their stranglehold over their domestic league with Inter Milan topping last season’s Serie A.
That is where the similarities end, however.
Whilst PSG have been getting closer and closer to winning the UCL, Juventus look as far off as ever, having been dumped out by Ajax, Lyon, and most recently, Porto in the past three tournaments.
Juve haven’t progressed beyond the last eight in four years and the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t been enough to change that.
Nonetheless, Pogba’s interest in a return to Italy may be piqued by the appointment of former boss Massimiliano Allegri.
Pogba flourished during his four-season stay at Juventus, particularly during Allegri’s tenure and Juventus need investment so the deal does make some sense for both parties.
Ordinarily, Pogba to Real Madrid would be exactly the sort of transfer that Los Blancos would make.
However, given their money trouble and ageing midfield, signing a 28-year-old on astronomical wages may not be the best course of action.
Having said that, logic and reason have rarely been key factors for Real Madrid President Florentino Pérez.
Real Madrid love a big-name signing and despite his inconsistent United form, names don’t come much bigger than Paul Pogba.
There are definitely a few issues to iron out here before this becomes a realistic prospect but it’s a possibility.
A free signing next summer looks like the most likely route for this transfer to unfold.
Another Spanish giant rumoured to be interested in Pogba but struggling badly with finances is Barcelona.
The would-be suitors have to first address the Lionel Messi contract situation before even considering a move for Pogba.
Currently, the greatest player in their history, and possibly beyond, is out of contract and free to sign for another club.
The situation isn’t quite as black and white as that but the key takeaway is Barcelona are likely to be preoccupied with Messi’s contract.
Nonetheless, Barca have already signed Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay on frees so a move for an out-of-contract Pogba next summer wouldn’t be out of the question.
The least likely of the mentioned clubs is Bayern Munich.
A move to another English club like Manchester City or Chelsea is out of the question which leaves Bayern Munich as the only plausible remaining contender for Pogba’s signature.
Bayern rarely splash the cash in the same way some of their European rivals do and Pogba seems like a strange fit for the Bavarian club.
The German champions may have the financial resources to pull it off but whether they’d want to is another question.
The answer is likely to be ‘no’.
Life after Pogba
Assuming Pogba leaves this summer, Manchester United would more than likely be dipping into the transfer market to make a replacement.
A double pivot of Fred and Scott McTominay isn’t inspiring and the Red Devils would be light in central midfield.
One possible option to replace Pogba is fellow Frenchman Edouardo Camavinga.
At just 18-years-old, Camavinga has already represented a highly competitive French national side and has his whole career ahead of him.
Like Pogba, he has just one year remaining on his contract and could be available at a cut-price fee.
Another potential replacement could be England international Declan Rice.
The West Ham defender-turned-midfielder has been heavily linked with Chelsea but would be an excellent addition for Manchester United.
Far from a like-for-like replacement, Rice offers far more defensive cover whilst possessing strong ball-carrying abilities and an eye for goal from range.
A final possible replacement should Pogba depart in the near future is Leicester’s powerful midfielder Wilfried Ndidi.
The Nigerian has been top class for the Foxes for several years and certainly wouldn’t come cheap, but at 24-years-old, Ndidi is still young and like Rice, would provide considerable defensive cover for United.