Paul Pogba wants out of Manchester United. But the club’s actions this summer strongly suggest the club believe he will stay.
Commercially, it makes sense United want to hold onto their most high profile asset.
And in terms of the team itself, Pogba stands out as by far the club’s best midfielder. So often last season that wasn’t enough.
A look at the tour squad shows a midfield which is a long way from challenging for the Premier League.
United have gambled by setting a high price of £150 million for Pogba, report The Guardian.
In this market, suitors Juventus, PSG and Real Madrid appear to be priced out.
PSG are looking to comply with financial fair play and finally spend within their means, while Real have already splashed out on Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard. They need to sell to buy.
Juventus don’t have the sort of money required either to pull off a deal.
United have already won the first battle, strong arming Pogba into going on the club’s pre-season tour.
Pogba has had to go through his agent Mino Raiola to try and force United’s hand, and it hasn’t worked, yet.
It isn’t just in assessing the market that United have taken a gamble.
Trying to keep him and stay strong is one thing. Weak activity in the transfer market is another.
The board have backed off two midfielders who are highly suited to replacing the Frenchman.
A sensible club would have moved for one or both anyway. Or if not them, somebody.
Signing one or two of them could have convinced Pogba to stay put, and shown United intend to contend for trophies by building a strong team around him.
Instead United have allowed the pair to join Tottenham and Leicester and there is no obvious replacement close to signing.
United’s decision in regard to Tielemans and Ndombele isn’t smart.
Because even if Pogba stays this summer, the club will still need a replacement next year, when he inevitably wants to leave again.
United appear to be gambling totally that Pogba will end up staying.
It isn’t really a sensible move considering the Frenchman is not surrounded by a top quality team, and will become a lightening rod for supporter and press criticism.
Even more than he is now.
Not for the first time, United’s strategy is baffling, there is little sense in keeping an unhappy player.
Why exactly do the club want to keep him so badly and put everything else at risk?
United’s long term rebuild mode appears to conflict with Pogba’s desire to win now.
If a club does pop up and pay United’s £150 million demand, United have let two replacement level targets pass them by, and are running out of time to sign an alternative.
Ed Woodward has shown in the transfer market this summer that speed of negotiation is not one of his strong points.
It’s a bold gamble for United to be making right now to try and keep Pogba put.
If not careful, it could engulf the club’s entire season.