Paul Pogba’s agent is trying to engineer a sensational deal for the Manchester United star to leave Old Trafford for Barcelona.
Mino Raiola has been in detailed discussions with the Spanish club over signing the midfielder, two years after he rejoined United from Juventus for £89million.
Pogba returned for pre-season training on Monday after winning the World Cup with France, and sources close to him say he would be open to a move.
United insisted on Monday night that Pogba is not for sale and they are believed to have rejected an opening offer from Barcelona of £44.6million plus two players — Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes.
It seems inconceivable that United would let go of their record signing, and Pogba’s camp accept it will be difficult to complete a deal before the transfer window closes.
However, the fact that Raiola is touting Pogba to Barcelona — apparently with his client’s blessing — is a worrying development for United after a difficult pre-season, and comes so close to United’s Premier League opener at home to Leicester on Friday.
United are aware that it could be a ploy by Pogba’s representative to secure him a new contract on the same terms as £500,000-a-week top earner Alexis Sanchez. Raiola is known to have approached United about a raise for Pogba after Sanchez moved to Old Trafford from Arsenal in January.
But this isn’t the first time the 25-year-old’s future at Old Trafford has been in doubt. Raiola, who took a staggering £41m cut of Pogba’s then world record fee when he returned to Old Trafford from Italy in 2016, sounded out some of Europe’s top clubs in January and Pep Guardiola confirmed that the player had been offered to Manchester City.
As Pogba’s relationship with Jose Mourinho grew increasingly strained last season, Sportsmail revealed in April that the United manager was prepared to sell him this summer.
The situation has not been helped by Mourinho’s negative comments about Pogba’s success with France at the World Cup, made on several occasions during United’s recent tour of the US, that went down very badly with the player.
Sources close to the player confirmed they were accurate, but the chances of United allowing him to leave Old Trafford two years into a five-year deal always seemed unlikely.
In theory, Barcelona would have until the end of the month to sign Pogba before the transfer window closes in Spain. However, the deadline in England is 5pm on Thursday, leaving United little or no time to sign a replacement unless they intended to replace him with new £52m signing Fred.
Pogba’s midfield partner Nemanja Matic is also sidelined following abdominal surgery in America.
Meanwhile, United remain in talks with Bayern Munich over Germany centre back Jerome Boateng. Bayern want £50m for the former Manchester City defender, but United are unwilling to pay more than £40m for a player who turns 30 next month.
Mina, Leicester’s Harry Maguire and Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld have been the alternative targets as Old Trafford executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward looks to deliver the new centre back that Mourinho wants.
The deal could hinge on Marcos Rojo leaving United and he has yet to be convinced that a move to Everton is the best option for him. Everton have lined up Mina as a back-up if they cannot sign Rojo but face competition from Lyon.