It made for a great headline in the morning papers in Barcelona. ‘Pogba? There are still 20 days left,’ was the quote from Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Behind the mischievous declaration of on-going intent Bartomeu knows that there is no way Manchester United will let Paul Pogba join Barcelona now.
It was almost impossible before the Premier League window closed because the Catalans simply cannot afford such an outlay right now. And with business concluded in England it is now completely out of the question.
But, as Barcelona see it, that’s no reason not to keep playing the long game.
They want Pogba. They know Real Madrid are lining up Neymar for next summer and they will need to respond. They were offered the possibility of moving for the player in the summer by his agent Mina Raiola.
And if there were any doubts about Pogba’s current state of mind at Manchester United they were amplified by his post-match comments after the Leicester game.
Barcelona lost Andres Iniesta in the summer and have three solutions covering his absence. One is Philippe Coutinho but the Brazilian may ultimately settle into a front three as opposed to a midfield trio.
The second is Arturo Vidal signed from Bayern Munich in the summer but they know the 31-year-old somewhat injury-prone Chile international is a short-term fix.
POGBA’S UNITED CAREER IN STATS
Yellow cards: 17
Red card: 1
And the third man is Arthur Melo who has taken Iniesta’s number eight shirt but is only 21 and, as with all Barcelona’s Brazilian acquisitions, Neymar apart, is very much a hit or miss project.
Pogba would stroll straight into the Barcelona midfield as first choice alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic. He would also sprinkle some stardust on a team that is lacking commercial pulling power since losing Neymar and not getting Antoine Griezmann.
But if they are to prise him away from Old Trafford it will have to be next summer when they will have had time to formulate a way to include his massive salary into their crippling wage bill which is already breaking the club’s self-imposed restrictions on what proportion of income it can represent on the balance sheets for each season.
A lot can happen in that time. Pogba could be offered a new deal that makes him United’s top earner above and beyond Alexis Sanchez. He might have made peace with Jose Mourinho or even outstayed the current United coach at the club.
But in the mean time Barcelona will keep chipping away.
There is not a great deal to be gained from talking it up too much now. Bartomeu stopped short of saying something along the lines of: ‘Pogba is a great player and we are always interested in great players’.
But in the January window if the French midfielder’s situation has not changed expect more alleged and denied clandestine meetings between Pogba and Barcelona’s Sporting Director Eric Abidal. And more wishful thinking from Barcelona supporters.