On the eve of the Red Devils’ biggest game of the season, their star midfielder’s agent came out and declared his client’s desire to leave the club
Manchester United had just landed in Germany when Mino Raiola’s inflammatory comments dropped.
“It’s over for Paul Pogba at Manchester United,” the agent told Tuttosport. “Paul at Manchester United is unhappy, he is no longer able to express himself as he would like and as expected of him.”
We’ve been here in the past with Raiola but the timing in the release of the interview has made it more contemptable than before. The squad were preparing for their biggest game of the season so far, a matchday six, group-stage showdown with RB Leipzig.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer requires focus, togetherness and fight from his team to progress through to the knockout stages of the competition. The last thing he needs is one of the squad’s most high-profile players all but handing in a transfer request.
Less than 48 hours before, Pogba had declared to the club’s in-house television channel: “I’m a team player. As long as the team wins, that’s the most important.”
Of course, it was not the player who gave the interview to the Italian newspaper but he has not said a word since to distance himself from the comments made by his agent. Moreover, those viral Raiola words are not indicative of a player who is committed to doing the best for his team.
United would not comment on Raiola’s latest in a long line of distasteful interjections but the timing of the release of the quotes – on the eve of a decisive Champions League clash and ahead of this weekend’s Manchester derby – has not gone down well with the club’s hierarchy.
It is hard to feel any level of sympathy for a France international who, through his outspoken agent, has consistently placed the club in awkward positions. Earlier in the year, just before a big game against Chelsea, Raiola tweeted about comments made by Solskjaer in a press conference.
In 2018, ahead of a derby, Pep Guardiola revealed he had been offered the chance to sign Pogba through Raiola. There have also been multiple occasions in which Pogba has gone on international duty and cast doubt on his future at Old Trafford. France manager Didier Deschamps has plenty to answer for in that respect too.
United have been dealing with Raiola long enough to know that unhelpful public updates on his clients are part of the way he does his business. Raiola himself even claimed in the Tuttosport interview that: “We have a great relationship.”
But this is becoming tiresome. No club or manager needs the furore that is currently accompanying Pogba.
The club extended the midfielder’s contract earlier in the year. It now runs until the summer of 2022. It is understood formal talks over a new deal have yet to take place and Raiola’s interview suggests there would be little point to them anyway.
They would have sold him in the summer of 2019 but the right bid never arrived. That means they have three windows to find a buyer.
“It’s pointless beating around the bush. Better to be straight up about it. Paul is unhappy at Manchester United,” Raiola said. “He isn’t performing as he’d like and as we expect. He has to move, he has to change scenery. He has a contract that expires in 18 months, in summer 2022. But I think the best thing for all parties is a sale.”
Raiola may have a reputation as a super-agent but finding a club with the means to pay United a sum they deem acceptable and finance Pogba’s wages will be no easy feat.
Real Madrid are known to be keen and Pogba has spoken openly about wanting to go there in the past. However, the Spanish champions have taken a financial hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, as have all clubs across the world.
The big dilemma United have to weigh up right now is whether Pogba is worth any more hassle. The short answer seems no. Bruno Fernandes has offered more in 11 months than Pogba has in four years and that’s before you take the off-field drama into consideration.
No matter the result at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night, Solskjaer will be again left to answer awkward questions about a player who never consistently performed to the level he is capable of; a player who let his agent express his desire to escape on the eve of the club’s biggest game of the season; a player who has made no secret of the fact he wants out.
We are approaching the endgame and United should cut their losses and let go sooner rather than later.