Pep Guardiola was the first to publicly reveal what many had suspected.
It was last year, just days before a Manchester derby, that the Manchester City manager let slip, perhaps intentionally, that Paul Pogba had been offered to him by the player’s notorious agent Mino Raiola.
It’s probable that Guardiola was just being mischievous, playing mind games ahead of a game against City’s biggest rivals. There was no move from the Etihad Stadium for Pogba, after all. But it raised the possibility, for the first time, that Pogba could be on his way out of Manchester United in the not so distant future.
Back then, Raiola, a man so bullish in his approach to being an agent he reportedly threw a chair across a room to force through Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s move from Borussia Dortmund to United three years ago, was blamed for touting his client around Europe. Now, however, with yet more questions over Pogba’s future, it’s the player himself being pointed at.
Last week, the 26-year-old faced questions over Real Madrid’s supposed interest. His response didn’t exactly quell speculation. “Like I’ve always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Pogba said. “There is also Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football.”
It should be noted that Pogba declared himself to be “happy” at Manchester United, but also added that “we don’t know what the future holds.”
His remarks add weight to reports in Spain that the midfielder is orchestrating a move to the Santiago Bernabeu, with the Frenchman supposedly turning down a contract extension to stay at Man United.
Pogba has bore the brunt of unfair criticism from the moment he returned to the Premier League three years ago, but all this raises legitimate questions over his commitment, or lack thereof, to the cause at Manchester United.
Until now, any transfer speculation surrounding the French midfielder has been the by-product of his tumultuous relationship with Jose Mourinho or the actions of his unpredictable, uncontrolled agent, Raiola.
Now, something has changed with Pogba himself driving conjecture and adding fuel to the fire.
He still owes United. It’s only in the last few months, with Mourinho out and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in, that Pogba has started to show on a consistent basis what he can do. Under new stewardship, the Frenchman has finally looked like the world-class player United splurged £89m on in the summer of 2016.
If Pogba is to depart Old Trafford this summer, he will leave a bad taste in the mouth. Despite his inconsistent performances over the last two-and-a-half seasons, the 26-year-old has been a fans’ favourite since his return from Juventus, but that relationship would flip 180 degrees were he to jump ship without ever showing his best form for a full season.
Maybe we should be wary of reading too much into Pogba’s comments. A question about Real Madrid’s interest was, after all, put to him and he provided an answer like the polished public figure he is. But it’s not the fact that Pogba addressed Real Madrid’s interest that raises concerns. It’s the over-elaboration, the use of the word “dream” not once, but twice.
Rather than batting his eyelashes in the direction of the Spanish capital, Pogba should be entirely focused on making up for lost time at Manchester United. He is a natural leader, one of very few in the Old Trafford dressing room, but what do the recent remarks of said leader say to his teammates?
Real Madrid are set for a summer overhaul and so Pogba won’t be the only star to flirt with the Spanish giants between now and the end of the season – Eden Hazard is actively scribbling his number down on a bit of paper and sliding it across the bar.
Man United fans, though, just want Pogba to show the love he has for his current club.