Manchester United superstar Paul Pogba put the football world on notice when, during a recent interview, he said: “It could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else.”
Suggestions of a potential transfer away from Old Trafford have long been bubbling under the surface, but his public admission sent the rumor mill into overdrive. Below, we examine the pros and cons of the three most likely destinations for the French midfielder.
Pogba is, without question, the guy at Manchester United, and that has to count for something, despite the turmoil that has defined the Red Devils in recent seasons. He’s the fulcrum of the side and the most talented player.
This is still one of the biggest clubs on the planet, too, playing in the most marketable league. Whether you like it or not, players of Pogba’s ilk are their own brands, and there’s arguably no better place to build your brand than Old Trafford. Reports that United are willing to offer the Frenchman a small fortune to ward off other interested clubs don’t hurt, either.
Um, basically everything else?
As alluded to above, United are a mess right now. The club is riddled with question marks from the boardroom down to the pitch. Why is Ed Woodward still involved in transfer decisions? Who, if anyone, is going to be the new sporting director? Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer actually a worthwhile manager? Who the heck is going to play center-back next season?
Amid all those problems, United conspired to throw away a chance at Champions League football going into next season, finishing outside the top four even though their nearest competitors floundered down the stretch. Thursday nights in Belarus beckon. Is that really where Pogba wants to showcase his talents – one of the most entertaining midfielders in the world throwing away the prime years of his career at a club that looks destined for mediocrity in the immediate future? Something about that just doesn’t feel right.
Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro, the three-headed monster that powered Real Madrid to Champions League domination in recent years, is no longer the all-conquering force it once was. Age comes for everyone. Pogba, then, would have the chance to become the marquee midfielder at arguably the biggest club on the planet were he to swap England for Spain. The allure of working with Zinedine Zidane must carry some weight for the French superstar, too.
With Florentino Perez sparing no expense on the heels of a forgettable campaign, Pogba would also be joining a side that will almost certainly make a big splash every summer for the foreseeable future.
If Pogba thought he was the target of harsh treatment from media and fans in England, their notoriously fickle Real Madrid counterparts won’t exactly offer much respite. Just ask Gareth Bale.
The Welshman has been instrumental in delivering multiple titles to the Bernabeu faithful – scoring one of the greatest goals in Champions League final history in the process – and still gets jeered off the pitch regularly. Tough crowd, man. Pogba would, presumably, get the same treatment as every other star that has preceded him in Madrid: adored when things are going well, vilified when they go south.
The transition back to Turin would be seamless. Pogba’s relationship with the Juve brass and many of his former teammates – Paulo Dybala chief among them – remains strong. The familiar surroundings would offer instant comfort, and would, in theory, allow the explosive midfielder to hit the ground running in his second stint with the Old Lady.
From a tactical perspective, Maurizio Sarri’s appointment could see Pogba slot into his preferred role on the left side of a three-man midfield, where he would have license to be the primary attacking threat of the central trio.
If we take Pogba’s point about wanting a “new challenge” at face value, then moving back to Juventus doesn’t exactly meet that criteria.
There’s also the question of Juve’s window to win the Champions League. Yes, the club is making a concerted effort this summer to rebuild for the future without sacrificing the present, but, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Giorgio Chiellini approaching the end of their respective careers, Juventus’ best chance of ending their longstanding Champions League heartache is right now. Failure to do so could leave the club, and thus Pogba, in no man’s land after the veteran core calls it quits.