Paul Pogba is on the move this summer.
The World Cup winner will see his contract at Manchester United expire on 30 June 2022 and will, for the second time, leave Old Trafford on a free transfer. His destination? No one knows.
A world-class talent, Pogba has the ability to play for any club in the world. However his inconsistent nature as well as his age (he just turned 29) mean he isn’t an automatic go-and-get signing.
That said, he has still been linked to a who’s who of top clubs around the world, and we’ve had a look at his possible destinations and graded them for how well they would suit both Pogba and the team in question.
Pogba was recently linked to Manchester City quite loudly and vociferously, and while that has since been debunked it did get a lot of people worked up for a while there. But the thing is, would it even have worked?
Sure, in theory a world-class midfield talent who has always just cried out to be surrounded by midfielders on or above his level signing for Man City makes sense, especially to be coached by Pep Guardiola, however think about what the Catalan demands of his players, especially his midfielders.
There’s the pressing, there’s the defensive responsibility and then there’s the obligation to play quickly, to get the ball and move it on at speed. Pogba is certainly capable of that, but not consistently. And he’s always been a poor defender and his frame makes it very hard to sustain a press for any real amount of time.
With the arrival of Erling Haaland, Guardiola is going to demand even more control from his midfielders in 2022/23 and Pogba couldn’t even handle the stresses of 2021/22, let alone any more.
Pogba to City 2022 would be like Cesc to Barcelona 2011; a good idea on paper but underwhelming in execution. Not what the player or the team need (unless their only desire is to stick it to Manchester United).
Paul Pogba was born in Lagny-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris. PSG, for all their domestic dominance, have just one French superstar and even if they do convince him to sign a new contract it seems likely he will not be in Paris for much time beyond the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Adding Pogba to their array of awesome attacking talent doesn’t really help PSG achieve a greater squad balance and harmony, but pairing a skill-set like Pogba’s with Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, Marco Verratti, Achraf Hakimi and the incomparable Leo Messi sounds delightful.
Add into the mix the rumours of Zinedine Zidane becoming PSG coach and you have a dream scenario for someone like Pogba. Returning home to play professional football for the first time in his life, playing alongside a galaxy of stars and being coached by the greatest French midfielder to ever step foot on grass? How could he say no?
Returning to Juventus would be really boring, but it seems realistic because Turin is the city where Pogba’s brilliance really exploded and he established himself in the public consciousness.
And of course Juventus have an affinity for free transfers, making a Pogba return right up their alley. Pogba would also function as a star signing and along with Matthijs De Ligt and Dusan Vlahovic be the main men of a new-look Juventus that could emerge as club stalwarts like Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala leave.
It wouldn’t be the best fit, given that Juve don’t exactly have Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal coached by Antonio Conte to put Pogba into his dream situation like they did when Pogba first joined them as a teenager. But it could work.
A club Pogba hasn’t really been linked to all that much is Bayern Munich, mostly because, as Mino Raiola (Pogba’s agent until his untimely death in May 2022) said back in December: “The German mentality is different.”
“The only German club that could pay for Paul is Bayern… but even they can’t get to Paul’s salary.” Clearly painting Bayern’s wage structure as an obstacle, that wage structure has seen the likes of David Alaba and Niklas Sule leave the club recently as they searched for bigger paydays, and right now Robert Lewandowski is being linked to a whole host of top sides as he renegotiates for a new contract.
So it’s not likely to happen, although if the window drags on with no new club found, Pogba may get desperate enough to drop his demands to where Bayern can match them. And then? Well, it’s still not a great fit, given Thomas Muller plays that high attacking midfielder role that Pogba would like to occupy. The Frenchman lacks the lungs and work-rate to properly replace Joshua Kimmich or Leon Goretzka in the Bayern engine room, nor is he Thomas Muller enough to replace Thomas Muller.
Sometimes dreams don’t come true. Paul Pogba has been linked to Real Madrid for a long while now, but the move never came about. Back in 2020, Pogba admitted: “Of course, every footballer would love to play for Real Madrid and would dream about that. It’s a dream of mine, so why not one day?”
It’s unlikely that dream has changed much, especially seeing how Real Madrid have played this season. Los Blancos have ambled through the vast majority of their bigger games before turning on the match-winning world-class genius like most people would turn on a tap.
Real Madrid aren’t good, but they aren’t bad either, they are their own unique thing. Trying to be like them is folly, there can be only one. That unique chemistry of world-class players with unshakeable mental strength and having just enough consistent players at the sharp ends of the pitch and a club history so steeped in victory that nothing fazes them.
This is the perfect club for Paul Pogba, a club where he could sail through most of the games doing next to nothing before unleashing hell in a 20-minute burst of ferocious match-winning magnificence alongside Luka Modric and compatriot Karim Benzema.
And while tactics and structure don’t really matter too much at Madrid; imagine the terrifying potency of Pogba playing those big diagonal passes to the electric pace of Vinicius Jr.? Scary stuff.
There is still the faintest of chances that Paul Pogba could stay with Manchester United, but one hopes that for both his sake and the club’s, that doesn’t happen. The Pogba project has run its course at Old Trafford, with more bad seasons than good ones and a player who just doesn’t fit into the team.
Wayne Rooney on Paul Pogba at #MUFC: "It’s got to a point now that it’s better to move on. If Paul is honest with himself, he’s not had the impact he would have liked at Manchester United." pic.twitter.com/BowpCIJ1uG
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) April 4, 2022
United seemed to sign Pogba back because they could, rather than have a place in the team for him or an idea how to use him. The structure and team-mates that let him excel for Juve or shine for France were never provided for him at United, with his best midfield partner being Bruno Fernandes, a man who essentially plays in Pogba’s best position (and does it better than the Frenchman).
Sure, Erik ten Hag would get more out of Pogba than any previous United coach would, but it wouldn’t be enough to justify his enormous wages and massive headline-hogging presence. It’s not all Pogba’s fault, of course, United have failed him as much as he failed them, but it’s a relationship that has come to a natural end.