Paul Pogba remains a somewhat divisive figure at Manchester United. He has plenty of admirers, and few truly doubt he is a hugely talented footballer. But there is no doubt that his second spell at Old Trafford has been a little underwhelming.
There was a huge amount of fanfare surrounding Pogba’s return to the club in 2016. He set United back £89million, a then world-record fee, and had been consistently excellent for Juventus in Serie A.
United fans have only really seen the midfielder’s brilliance in fleeting spells. Often it has been interrupted by injury, or a patchy run of form. And the same questions are asked time and time again: could Pogba be performing better? Is this United team hindering him? Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer discover the solution?
The answers aren’t always clear. Pogba is capable of single-handedly dictating the tempo of games at the highest level, as he demonstrated for Juventus and with France, particularly throughout the 2018 World Cup.
Even when he has been below his best for United, Pogba remains a uniquely gifted player, still one of the best in the division.
But the Reds, understandably, expected more. As things stand, the consensus would probably be that Pogba has been a disappointment.
Perhaps he has been a victim of his own success. Perhaps he should be judged less harshly for his performances over the last four years. Still, it feels like there is something missing.
For United, it could become a lose-lose situation. United recently triggered the one-year option on Pogba’s contract, meaning he is tied to Old Trafford until 2022. His long-term future remains uncertain, however.
And that is a problem. If Pogba suddenly puts together a string of eye-catching, match-winning displays, there will almost certainly be a host of top clubs taking an interest next summer, especially as his contract will have just one year to run.
Conversely, if Pogba continues to dip in and out of form, his market price will drop. And unless the Frenchman signs a new multi-year deal, United may have to cash in. At the moment it seems unlikely that they will recoup the £89m they spent in 2016.
Pogba turns 28 in March, too, and he is approaching the age where clubs become reluctant to spend big money on a player. Barring the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, asking for £90m+ for a player not too far off 30 just seems unrealistic.
It’s obvious that Pogba is still highly regarded, and he should now be in his prime, enjoying the best years of his career. The biggest clubs will probably be interested, too. Rumours have been circulating over a potential move to Real Madrid after he claimed playing for the Spanish giants would be a ‘dream’.
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“Paul’s our player, he’s going to be here for another two years,” Solskjaer told the MEN, however, in response to the speculation. “I’m sure Paul is focused on doing his best for us and we want to see the best of Paul and I’m sure in the next couple of years we’ll get the best out of him.”
Others aren’t so sure. United’s poor start to the season hasn’t helped matters, and the club have really been starved of any major successes since Pogba rejoined.
The best-case scenario for United would be a contract extension for Pogba, especially if it coincides with a prolonged run of top form.