Paul Pogba’s time at Manchester United is coming to an end. The French international midfielder has stated that this summer “could be a good time to move elsewhere” with many of United’s fan base seemingly in agreement.
Whether he returns to Juventus for a spot of Sarriball or heads to Spain to join fellow countryman Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, the stark truth is that the Red Devils have failed to get the best out of the player they nurtured in their Academy and are now once again left looking for a midfield general.
We’ve been doing a bit of scouting ourselves over the past weeks and we think we’ve come up with five alternatives who are ready to take up the position that seems to have become a poisoned chalice at Old Trafford in recent years.
Ironically, a move back to Juve for Pogba could leave United in the box seat to land 24-year-old Serbian international Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The player has made no secret of the fact that he’s ready to leave Lazio this summer after a season which has failed to reach the dizzy heights of his previous three campaigns in Serie A.
As soon as the transfer rumours started flying around the Stadio Olimpico, Milinkovic-Savic got distracted and a return of seven goals in 41 appearances last season is simply not good enough for a player of his quality, although he would point to the fact that injuries took a toll.
Should United pursue their chase then they’ll have to negotiate with Lazio President Claudio Lotito, a man so stubborn he puts Daniel Levy to shame and with the cash they’ll get for Pogba, they would have to invest around £60M to try to tempt the Italians to part company with their prized asset. In the long run however, it could be money very well spent.
GIOVANI LO CELSO
Reports have been bubbling over the weekend that United are hunting down 23-year-old Argentine midfielder Giovani Lo Celso who has had a wonderful season on-loan at Real Betis. The Spaniards have been so impressed that they’ve purchased Lo Celso on a permanent deal from Paris Saint-Germain for a bargain price of £20M, but despite this, Betis are resigned to losing him before the start of the new campaign if the right bid is tabled.
Currently on Copa America duty with his country, Lo Celso knocked in 16 goals last season in all competitions and it’s believed that the Spaniards would not be prepared to let him go for anything less than £70M. United will also have to fend off competition from Tottenham Hotspur who can of course offer the player Champions League football next term.
12 months ago it looked as though French international Adrien Rabiot had the world at his feet with a host of clubs jostling for his signature. Now, after a dreadful season with Paris Saint-Germain, the 24-year-old finds himself out of work after failing to agree a new deal in the French capital which makes him a free-agent this summer.
The talent is undoubtedly there, the temperament maybe not, but a player who has been described as a “Pogba-Vidal hybrid” could be the perfect low-cost answer to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s midfield conundrum and let’s be honest, he couldn’t be any worse than Eric Djemba-Djemba.
The young Roma star has been on the Old Trafford radar for a while. After initially struggling to adapt to life at a big club after his move from Sassuolo in 2017, Pellegrini has now blossomed into one of the best midfield prospects in Serie A.
The player has been at pains to state that he’s not thinking of a summer move from his hometown club, but President James Pallotta may see things a little differently should someone dangle £40M in front of him.
If he’s forced to move on then it’s unlikely that he’ll want to play for another Italian top-flight club and at just 22-years of age, there is still much improvement to be done (although Pellegrini looks to be maturing with every passing game). Solskjaer has to decide if he’s prepared to take a gamble on the youngster or whether he wants to bring in the finished article.
Should Pogba head back to Turin then United may want to ask if Uruguay international Rodrigo Bentancur is available to come to Old Trafford as part of any deal. The Frenchman’s arrival back at Juventus could see the 21-year-old pushed back onto the sidelines after impressing in his 31 league outings for the Old Lady last season.
Under contract with his current employers until 2022, United would be in a position to see just how much Juventus want Pogba back in the fold by throwing in the name of Bentancur in a cash plus player operation. New Bianconeri boss Maurizio Sarri may have other ideas of course, but with Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira also around, Juventus are well represented in this area and one of them may have to vacate his place in the dressing-room if Pogba returns.