The Pogba problem

By Pete Reilly Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/9 18:23:41

Frenchman’s agent causes yet another stir at Old Trafford

Paul Pogba Photo: VCG

"There's no use ignoring it," were the words of Paul Pogba's agent Mino Raiola earlier in the week. "I can say that it's over for Paul Pogba at Manchester United."

The portly Dutch-Italian might well be the elephant in the room but when he is not he makes sure his clients are and none more so than Pogba's protracted pandering for a move away from Manchester United.

As with the criticism of the Frenchman's performances on the pitch since a world record move, his timing could not have been worse.

First of all Pogba had just had his first decent game in a while, scoring the first in Saturday night's comeback win over West Ham United. Secondly, Untied had the small matter of a game against RB Leipzig on Tuesday, needing a point to progress in the Champions League knockouts.

Raiola was not having any of it. The time, he says, is right for Pogba to leave.

"It's better to speak honestly, look to the future and not waste time trying to blame people," the super agent told Italian outlet Tuttosport. "Paul is unhappy at Manchester United, he can no longer express himself as he wants to or in the way that's expected of him.

"He has a contract that will expire in a year and a half, in the summer of 2022, but I believe the best solution for the parties is to sell it to the next market. Otherwise, the Old Trafford club, with which relations are excellent, knows that they would risk losing him on a free transfer, given that for the moment it is not the player's intention to extend the contract.

"If people don't get that, they know very little about football. In any case, they'll all blame me if Paul leaves next summer."

Pogba had been problematic for previous Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and made no bones about his desire to leave the club again earlier in the year.

In October Pogba spoke of his desire to play for Real Madrid, describing the move as a "dream." Solskjaer played this down and suggested that the player would see out his contract at Old Trafford.

The fact is that he has struggled to nail down a starting place this season since he recovered from COVID-19 and he missed much of last season with an ankle issue that caused division between the club's medical staff and Pgba's own advisers. That goal against West Ham was his first of the season, and he has only started five games in the English Premier League.

The 2018 World Cup-winning midfielder scored his second of the season on Tuesday but he was left out of the starting side again, though Solskjaer stressed it was nothing to do with Raiola's comments.

That goal was also worthless in the end, United's second as they failed to overhaul their German hosts' 3-0 lead with yet another late comeback. Goodbye Champions League, Hello Europa League.

Should it also be goodbye to Pogba? You can understand that a player of his reputation does not want to be playing for the Europa League every year, while the chances of the Premier League trophy returning to Old Trafford for the first time since 2013 look like they will go on until 2022 at the earliest.

But should they want to keep him?

No is the firm belief of former Liverpool and England defender turned pundit Jamie Carragher.

"Get rid. I have been saying this for 12 months," he said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football, speaking after Raiola's comments.

"Oh my god, he is the most overrated player I have seen in my life."

Carragher pointed the finger at both player and agent.

"I think the two of them are a disgrace," he said. "We will all look at the agent now, and say 'ask Pogba what he thinks.'

"Agents in this day and age are not just agents, they are a parent, the best friend, the financial advisor, they book holidays; they go away together."

"He will be Pogba's best mate," Carragher said as he crossed his fingers to indicated their closeness. "So Pogba will be well aware of what was going to come out of his mouth. And if he wasn't, he should sack his agent."

Former Manchester United fullback Gary Neville, who sits alongside Carragher in the studio, was similarly critical on Twitter.

"However surely Paul knew he was making this announcement? If he wasn't aware then we should see a quote from him very soon correcting his agent," he wrote. 

"Finally to do this ahead of Leipzig and the Man Derby is terrible timing for the team."

United's must-win game in Germany was lost and they go into the Manchester Derby on Saturday evening lurching towards another crisis. It is not all of Pogba and Raiola's making but they have certainly not helped matters.

There is an irony to City being the next opposition for United as they deal with more Raiola fallout, though.

The agent had called City boss Pep Guardiola a "coward" and a "dog" but still offered Pogba to United's Manchester rivals in 2018.

"We don't have the money enough to buy Pogba because he is so expensive," Guardiola said of the offer. "I'm surprised because I am a dog. He wants his players to come to here. So, no. No way."

United have had their fingers burnt before by both Pogba and Raiola. The Manchester United youth prospect left for Juventus soon after signing with the agent, who then boss Alex Ferguson described as a "s**tbag."

Ferguson's first meeting with Raiola was a "fiasco" ­­- "From then, our goose was cooked. He [Raiola] and I were like oil and water," Ferguson wrote.

So where can Pogba go?

"There are only two clubs better than Man United, and that's Barcelona and Real Madrid," Carragher said.

"By better, I mean who players you can understand going to. So [Cristiano] Ronaldo goes from Manchester United to Real Madrid. Everyone sees Barcelona and Real Madrid as the pinnacle of club football.

"There is no chance in the world Real Madrid or Barcelona will buy him. I will be flabbergasted if they come in for him." 

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