"I don't think at the moment we have the strength to retain such a player," Juventus President Andrea Agnelli told a Leaders in Football conference in London last week. “I am trying to think what will be of us in two or three years' time if we get a massive offer for one of the best talents we have today. Would we be able to retain him? I don't know."
Paul Pogba has quickly become one of the best midfielders in Italy – a vital cog to the Bianconeri machine. But as the club’s chief admitted, a big bid could see the 20-year-old off to one of the other major powers in European football.
After joining from Manchester United last summer on a free transfer, a profit of €40m+ may seem like a great piece of business from the Turin club. But it’s a sad indictment of Serie A that one of its leading lights and most promising youngsters can’t, seemingly, be kept by the League’s biggest and most financially successful side.
Antonio Conte’s men have risen from the ashes to become one of the clubs dining at Europe’s top table again, but despite the arrivals of top names like Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente – albeit for knock-down prices – the loss of such a fundamental player would be a bitter pill to swallow.
"Look at what happened to Milan,” Agnelli continued in the English capital. “They had to give away Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to pay the cheques. At the end of the day you can be attractive, but you also need to have the economic strength. If I was to judge it from a footballers' point of view, Italy is no longer the final destination but a transit destination.”
Gone are the glory days of the late 1980s and early 1990s when Serie A was the greatest domestic competition in the world. But is it too much to ask for easily the biggest club on the peninsula to keep its best talent? It’s an age-old debate that has been had many times before – but if Juve are to be successful in the Champions League, surely they have to wave on potentially losing the France international in the hope that he can guide the side to European glory?
Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Chelsea have all been linked with the Le Havre graduate, but the player himself has insisted that he is concentrating on doing well at the Juventus Stadium. “I am not angry that Juventus are talking about a possible transfer,” he told Sky Sport Italia on Tuesday. “I do not know anything about PSG's interest. I am only thinking about Juventus. I am happy here. We have not discussed a contract renewal yet, so there's no news on that front. I am only thinking about football and my agent Mino Raiola takes care of the rest.”
Alongside Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, Pobga has become the player everyone at Manchester United thought he would be when he arrived from France in 2009. His calm assurance on the ball, eye for a pass and ferocious shot are now weekly occurrences in Turin. With him holding fort in the middle of the park, the Old Lady could dominate Italy and the continent for years. But with huge figures being dangled in their faces, will it ever come to that?