Why Paul Pogba Is More Likely to Become Man United Captain Than Join Real Madrid

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportMay 24, 2019

Manchester United's Paul Pogba who has two gold stars colouring the back of his head, a reference to the 2 World Cups that France have won, the during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford, in Manchester, England, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

Paul Pogba's season at Manchester United ended in a showdown with his own supporters, with one sending him a barrage of abuse from the Stretford End as he walked toward the Old Trafford tunnel.

Pogba heard the words. He felt the vitriol.

"All this f--king Instagram. You're s--te, mate. Pack your bags and f--k off," was the message.

Some players would have reacted angrily, but Pogba kept his cool, took the higher ground and walked away.

It might prove to be the final time he left the pitch as a United player. (Warning: NSFW language in the video below):

This summer, Real Madrid are plotting a squad overhaul. As part of the plan, Pogba is wanted by manage Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid have a huge budget for the transfer window, estimated at £350 million. Frankfurt's Luka Jovic and Chelsea's Eden Hazard are two names they are confident of landing, but behind them is Pogba. Zidane sees him as a complete midfielder—he can defend, he can attack, he can pass and he can score. Spanish sources told B/R that the Madrid coach has privately admitted he is confident a deal could be struck if United show they are open to offers.

The France international cost £89.3 million when he arrived from Juventus in 2016, and though he has struggled to live up to expectations since, the message coming out of Old Trafford is that his price tag would now be £140 million. 

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It is a fee Madrid could afford—but there are going to be other difficulties if negotiations begin. 

First, wages. Gareth Bale is their highest earner, collecting a basic wage of £350,000 per week that rises to around £600,000 per week once bonuses are tagged on.

Pogba is already earning £290,000 per week without add-ons at Old Trafford, and his next deal—be it at United or anywhere else—will be well in advance of that figure. 

Second, there is the matter of his agent, Mino Raiola. A transfer to Madrid would also mean a huge payday for him, and the degree of that on top of the other figures is something that will press the value of the deal to its limits.

Kieran Canning is a football correspondent for AFP and also has detailed knowledge of the Spanish football scene. 

"I don't see Madrid going for him at all costs," he told Bleacher Report. "And because of that, I cannot see them matching United's asking price. If a deal around £100 million can be done, then it is possible as Zidane is a big fan. However, I believe Madrid's primary targets are elsewhere. Eden Hazard and, possibly, Kylian Mbappe. I also think the new contract for Toni Kroos is a sign the Pogba deal is less likely to happen." 

Sources close to the player told B/R that Pogba was not deeply affected by the fan's rant from the last day of the season against Cardiff City.

One contact also described Pogba as one of the most "kind and caring" players in the Premier League, saying how he regularly goes out of his way to make charitable donations and even unannounced appearances at homes and hospitals to visit people in need of a lift.

Yet most of that is unseen and unpublicised. 

Some critics call him lazy; others complain about his attention to hairstyles. Many United fans, though, simply see him as a luxury player the club can no longer accommodate.

Pogba has had issues over the captain's armband before at United. He was made skipper in Antonio Valencia's absence earlier in the season under Jose Mourinho. It did not go especially well, as he was stripped of his "second captain" role after criticising the team's style of play.

Valencia is now leaving United, giving manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a major decision to make about the way his side are led on and off the field.

If Pogba is not made club captain, it is most likely to go to Ashley Young—but there are reservations about how regularly he will be in United's starting XI next season after a summer overhaul.

With that in mind, even if Young is the official captain, United will need a second captain to lead on the pitch every week. And options away from Pogba are limited, with David De Gea and Chris Smalling the only others who will be considered, according to sources. 

Mourinho and Solskjaer both saw flashes of Pogba at his best. Last season, he scored 16 goals (seven were penalties) and provided 11 assists in 47 games across all competitions. But getting the best out of him regularly is something others have also found difficult.

"I think the difference when he was at Juventus is, broadly, position and the players he was surrounded by," Canning explains. "The midfield of Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Pogba offered a balance. Moreover, he did not need to be a leader in a team with Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Pirlo and Carlos Tevez.

"With France, he had actually had a lot of the same problems. If you remember at UEFA Euro 2016, he was dropped for a game—and very passive in the final. In 2018, Deschamps managed to get him to sacrifice many of his strengths to play in a far more disciplined way alongside N'Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi and leave most of the magic to Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. It was only really in the final, once the game opened up, that he was able to show his abilities going forward too. In short, the same problems as at United but better players around him."

According to sources at United, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward still believes that selling Pogba would be a bad idea. It is said that he fears giving up too soon could be a major error. He also has a lot on the line, given he gave the green light to Pogba's return.

There are two options opening up for Pogba, with significantly differing paths of how his career moves forward.

One option, perhaps the easier of the two, is for Pogba to request a move. Both parties can accept they are not made for each other, and talks with Real Madrid for him to leap over Philippe Coutinho and become the most expensive midfielder in the world can begin.

But the other option is to embrace him: Give Pogba the armband and build around him. Acknowledge him as one of the most gifted footballers on the planet and find a way for him to flourish. 

Pogba is a FIFA World Cup winner, and United firmly believe he remains a gem. Fans have not yet been able to appreciate why he is so precious, but that is why so many at board level are believed to agree this story is not over yet.

Pogba's relationship with United is likely to be given one final chance to grow into something special. 

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