Man Utd have slapped a £179 million price tag on Paul Pogba after learning of Real Madrid’s determination to sign him in the January transfer window. The French midfielder was apparently Real manager Zinedine Zidane’s top target in the summer, but the two clubs failed to agree a deal. Pogba remains a Man Utd player, but the lure of the Bernebeu is strong and he is likely to agitate for a move in January. Yet the La Liga outfit will need to significantly loosen the purse string if they are to bring the World Cup winner to Madrid.
Both teams have made a poor start to the 2019/20 campaign. Real Madrid began the season with a strong 3-1 win away at Celta Vigo, but they have since drawn 1-1 with Valladolid and 2-2 away at Villarreal. They are clear underdogs to win the league title this season. Barcelona’s form has been poor, but they have the odds-on favourites to seize the crown once again with the top betting websites.
Real broke the world record for the heaviest spending transfer window of all time this summer. They spent €300 million on Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy and Rodrygo, which significantly bolstered their options in attack and in defence. Yet the midfield received no upgrade. Real Madrid boast arguably the world’s most celebrated midfield trio, as Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro helped them win three Champions League titles in a row between 2016 and 2018, but Modric is now 34 and they could do with some fresh legs.
Man Utd have the opposite problem. Their squad is full of fresh legs, but they lack experience and 26-year-old Pogba is one of the elder statesmen in the group. His form has been erratic over the past year, but on his day he is a phenomenal talent and it is easy to see why they are keen to keep hold of him. However, it can prove counter-intuitive to keep a player against his will, as he can become disruptive in the dressing room, and fail to perform to his full potential, so clubs often decide to cash in.
Real Madrid are expected to come calling in January and Man Utd might decide to accept – if the money is right. They paid what was then a world record fee of £94 million to sign him in 2016, but he has not led them to glory. He is inconsistent, but he could flourish under the expert tutelage of Zidane, who is arguably the greatest central midfielder of all time. A transfer could then be in everyone’s best interests, but it remains to be seen if Real Madrid will stump up the necessary cash.
They may try to tempt Man Utd with a part-exchange deal. When they were exploring the possibility of signing Neymar from PSG in the summer, Real Madrid were trying to throw the likes of Isco and Marcelo into the deal. PSG turned them down, but Man Utd have more holes in their squad, and they could be more acquiescent. Yet they could throw a spanner in the works by demanding Kroos in exchange.
The Germany international is just 29 years old and he still has a few years at the top ahead of him, so Real Madrid would be loathe to lose him. But if Zidane really wants his man, that is a price he may well have to pay. Man Utd’s biggest weakness is in the centre of the park, and if they lose Pogba their midfield would be threadbare. They may agree to let the Frenchman go if they can have a superstar like Kroos and a pile of cash in return, so it will be fascinating to see what happens in January.