Mino Raiola’s constant acts of coming out to discuss Paul Pogba’s future in a rather public manner have almost become a bi-monthly magazine. It happens just about every two months and it becomes a huge soap opera involving Manchester United, when the club can ill-afford any off-field drama anymore.
As much as this bi-monthly drama has entertained many over the years, it finally seems to be coming to an end considering Raiola’s recent words about the Frenchman’s fractured relationship with Man Utd.
Inevitably so, Raiola mentioned Juventus’ name and it is hardly a surprise as it was been made clear by Fabrizio Romano that Pogba would’ve been a Juventus player if not for the pandemic.
There is a clear admiration from both parties and Juve enjoy good relations with Raiola too, something which is not happening at Manchester United.
When Raiola helped Juve signing Matthijs de Ligt in 2019, Old Lady fans were chanting his name upon his arrival at the J Medical with his teenage client. On the other hand, not a day goes by without Man Utd supporters abusing the agent on social media. Perhaps, that defines the club’s relations with Pogba too. United have a lot-hate relation with the Frenchman, who is still adored and admired by many in Turin.
Andrea Pirlo was a guide for Pogba when they shared the Juventus dressing room under Antonio Conte and Max Allegri. The same is true of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Pavel Nedved had Raiola as his agent during his playing career. Having said that, the adulation of Juventus fans for Pogba can’t be the only reason why he could return to the club.
Pogba has struggled to find his identity at United. Doubts have crept about what his real position is. Jose Mourinho tried his best to unchain him by having hardworking midfielders behind him. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried him as a deep-lying midfielder behind Bruno Fernandes and while it worked well for a while, the consistency has been sorely lacking.
Under Pirlo, Juve have been deploying a rather dynamic 4-4-2 shape that turns into a 3-4-1-2 when the Bianconeri set up their attacking actions. Their main issues so far in the campaign lie in not having a concrete structure in midfield, because of which it has been easy to overrun the Old Lady’s midfield especially in the absence of Weston McKennie who, however, doesn’t have the quality of the 2018 France World Cup winner.
One of Pogba’s basic demands to succeed is usually the need of a proper defensive midfielder close to him. While at Juventus, Pogba plied his trade in a compact system which had Arturo Vidal and Pirlo or Claudio Marchisio around him. While the current Juventus side may be showing signs of replicating those players with Rodrigo Bentancur, McKennie and Arthur, the demands of this system are much different.
Aaron Ramsey’s role of a dynamic third-man in midfield isn’t something which suits Pogba because the Welshman is more mobile and covers more distance on the pitch. That makes Pogba’s suitability to Juve a dilemma unless Pirlo adds a new aspect to fit the Frenchman into the side.
But how many chances do Juventus have to re-sign the Frenchman? Reports in Italy suggest they will try it in January, but negotiations won’t be easy.
There are also constant talk of Paulo Dybala swapping Juve with United once again, as the Athletic recently reported. La Joya has cut a rather frustrated figure this season, with contract talks not progressing as much as he’d want. There have been question marks about his attitude, fitness and approach on the pitch, leaving many Juve fans angry. There is certainly background to the links with Man Utd, who came close to signing La Joya in 2019 when the swap deal with Romelu Lukaku collapsed.
As much as Dybala can play as the number ten, United now have two options for that role in Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek. However, he can play in a front two like he has beside Cristiano Ronaldo this season.
Another potential swap deal that could see Pogba return to Serie A is with Christian Eriksen. Inter are the only other realistic option in Italy and Pogba has been linked with a move to the Nerrazzurri in the past. Inter’s most obvious option for moving on would be Christian Eriksen but as mentioned before, the number ten slot is already full at Old Trafford. Other Inter players that have been touted to be moved on happen to be Milan Skriniar and Marcelo Brozovic who had been linked with the Red Devils in the past. Those are two players that could suit United, considering their search for a ball-playing central defender and a potential replacement for Nemanja Matic.
It remains to be seen if Conte would be willing to sacrifice Skriniar or Brozovic (without whom Inter have lacked balance in deeper midfield this season) for a former favourite of his. The Italian coach has shown a preference for his former players and Man Utd now have excellent relations with Inter. Last, bot not least, Beppe Marotta brought him to Turin in 2012 and is another one with a great relationship with the French star.
So, there are clearly a lot of loose ends in this saga yet to be tied. Surely, Pogba is not happy anymore at Old Trafford and he has plenty of admirers in Italy. Juventus on one side, Conte and Marotta on the other. This doesn’t mean Pogba will surely end up playing in Italy again but the Bel Paese is surely attracting the 27-years-old. Add to that Mino Raiola hasn’t got quite a good relationship within other European top clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona and a return to Italy appears a realistic option for Pogba. How it can happen it’s down to the clubs and the player’s agent.