Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

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Paul Pogba is getting what he wants at Manchester United

4 min read

Maybe the most disappointed at Manchester United passing on Gareth Bale are Adidas. Their client will sport the swoosh at Tottenham rather than the three stripes he has donned for seven years with club and country and Adidas have been denied a star pairing.

The prospect of Bale and Paul Pogba posing in Adidas regalia would have doubtless made a banner on the East Stand exterior but those mythical days of sportswear sponsors part-financing transfers are distant. Nike were prepared to contribute to a Cristiano Ronaldo homecoming in 2013 until Sir Alex Ferguson headed upstairs.

Pogba must privately approve of United giving Bale a swerve. Bale earns £600,000 each week from Madrid and £350,000 after tax, around £50,000 below Alexis Sanchez’s weekly net earning at United. Pogba planted a kiss on Sanchez’s crown in that rousing derby comeback in April 2018 but the Chilean’s arrival caused resentment among dressing room figures. Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola was piqued enough to offer his client to Manchester City the same month Sanchez tickled the ivories.

Bale is six months older than Sanchez and on similar wages. Pogba has not received an improved contract since he rejoined United and gone onto win the World Cup, an achievement United celebrated via a tweet curated by Adidas.

Bale has collected a couple of Champions League winner’s medals and claimed the greatest European Cup final goal yet he has been on a steady downward curve since Wales’ run to the European Championship semi-finals. Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow still loomed after he left Madrid in 2018 and Bale never emerged from it.

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Jadon Sancho is expensive enough for United, never mind Bale, and the Borussia Dortmund winger’s salary demands have been described as a ‘real issue’. United have made headway in negotiations over Sancho’s personal terms but are still haunted by the Sanchez deal and the £10m fee his representative Fernando Felicevich pocketed.

Raiola raked in £41m from the world record Pogba move and United have cited agent fee demands behind the collapse of deals for Paulo Dybala and Erling Haaland. There is a silent acceptance they have set the precedent for agent avarice and are determined not to repeat mistakes amid ongoing discussions with Sancho’s adviser, Emeka Obasi.

United are also reluctant to put Sancho, seven years Pogba’s junior, on a superior salary than their £290,000-a-week midfielder. United want to tie down Pogba on a new deal now he has entered the last year of his current terms (United have the option of an additional year) and so their indulgence has to continue.

They are too far gone with Pogba to take a principled stance now. They have kowtowed to a talent who has revelled in one manager’s sacking and undermined the other. It would arguably be hollow of Pogba – knowingly offered to City and enchanted by the possibility of playing for his boyhood idol in Madrid – to commit when he has tried to leave United.

Pogba last year mused ‘it could be a good time to have a new challenge somewhere else’, a quote United have attempted to airbrush from history and did not mention on their podcast with Pogba. Raiola was ‘sorry’ he did not engineer a transfer to Madrid and Pogba was coincidentally photographed with Zinedine Zidane in Dubai last season.

United granted Pogba permission to travel to Dubai and Miami to get some vitamin E while injured and he was filmed dancing at his brother’s wedding in Paris. They need to keep him sweet and recruiting another ageing and expensive forward would have risked souring relations.



Pogba has been in the gym and back out on the pitch this week
Pogba has been in the gym and back out on the pitch this week

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been so protective of Pogba he has sounded more like his PR manager than football manager at times. United have recruited around Pogba, acquiring a playmaker in Bruno Fernandes and holding midfielder in Donny van de Beek. A cynic might wonder whether United have overcompensated in signing midfield conductors in the event Pogba ups sticks for Madrid next year.

Pogba’s post-restart form was impressive and the football United played with him back in the team was some of their best in the post-Ferguson age. The pandemic put paid to a summer transfer and, free of distractions over his future, Pogba’s influence neared the level of his Solskjaer-caretaker bounce period, the zenith of his club form.

United have a bloated 33-man squad and their troika of unwanted centre-backs are costing them in excess of £300,000 a week in wages and Old Trafford is still closed to supporters. They line the Glazers’ pockets but also need to keep the coffers full enough to be profitable and announcing a Pogba extension is the best possible get-out if the transfer window closes on a downbeat note.

They are not as flush as when Ed Woodward boasted on MUTV about their ‘financial position allows us to do things in the transfer market that most other clubs cannot do’. Adidas will be disappointed.

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