Paul Pogba’s relationship with Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho appeared to hit a new low this week.
A clip of the midfielder and his manager having a tense exchange on the training ground emerged on Wednesday.
Could he be on his way out of Old Trafford ? Could anyone afford to sign him? Or will he end up lasting longer than his manager?
BBC Radio 5 live’s Euro Leagues Football Show journalists have their say on the issue…
Where could Pogba end up?
Pogba’s former club Juventus, his hometown team Paris St-Germain and Spanish champions Barcelona are among the European clubs to be linked with the 25-year-old.
But a prospective high transfer fee could prove an issue. United paid Juve a then world record £89m for him in 2016 – but that was before Neymar’s £200m move to PSG changed the transfer market. And Pogba’s wage is thought to be about £180,000 a week.
Italian football journalist James Horncastle, who covered Pogba’s time at Juventus, is not sure the Serie A champions could afford him after spending £99m this summer on Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
“There have been reports over the past few days – Pogba has been texting his friends at Juventus,” said Horncastle.
“After the effort Juventus made to sign Ronaldo, not only in terms of the fee – a Serie A record – but also having to pay him 31m euro (£27.6m) a year, it will be very difficult for them to sign Pogba.
“There could be sales lined up, but it would be very difficult for them even though the general manager at Juventus, Beppe Marotta, said recently that Pogba is a ‘special case’.”
The situation at PSG is similar. Uefa has just reopened an investigation into the French champions’ finances and spending. Last summer they signed Barcelona’s Neymar for a world record fee – and added Monaco teenager Kylian Mbappe on a loan deal which became a permanent move for 180m euros (£165.7m).
“PSG would want Pogba, for sure. He’s a Paris born-and-bred kid,” said French writer Julien Laurens. “The idea, like Kylian Mbappe, of bringing him home would be very appealing. They’re short of midfielders.
“However, like with Juventus, with financial fair play on their back, it would be very hard – not just the transfer fee but the wages. You’re looking at easily 20m euros (£17.9m) a year or more.
“I don’t think they have that money – unless Pogba stays at Manchester United beyond January somehow and Neymar goes to Real Madrid next summer, then there would be space for Pogba to come home. But apart from that I don’t see it happening.”
Spanish journalist Guillem Balague says Barcelona would be interested but reluctant to deal with his agent, Mino Raiola. Barca have a bad history with Raiola, who criticised the club repeatedly after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was moved on after one year. Raiola even claims he tried to attack then Barca boss Pep Guardiola after the 2011 Champions League final.
“There’s a lot of stories published in recent times all coming from the same source, Mino Raiola, who is trying to create this debate,” said Balague.
“Barcelona have made no contact with anyone about Pogba this summer and they made no offer. They haven’t spoken about Pogba, but of course they’d be interested if he becomes available.
“They’ve spoken to [agent] Jorge Mendes about players, even though he has been closely linked to Real Madrid in the past, and they will speak to Mino Raiola, but they see him as a problem. They see the money he will be asking for is something they won’t want to pay.
“It’s about reinforcing this hit-and-miss Barcelona – especially in midfield. They see Pogba as the kind of midfielder they would like to have – as long as a Frenkie de Jong from Ajax comes as well – that’s the idea they’ve got for the future.
“That’s if Pogba becomes available, but they haven’t rung Manchester United or been in touch with Raiola yet.”
Will Pogba outlast Mourinho at Man Utd?
Several of the journalists on the show seem to think Mourinho will leave Old Trafford before Pogba, who was re-signed to much fanfare in the summer Mourinho was appointed.
Horncastle said: “One of the reasons Pogba reacted like he did and answered back to Mourinho at training is because he probably fancies himself to outlast that relationship.
“In terms of the power struggle, Pogba recognises he is a more influential figure – when it comes to what United need to do, not only being successful on the pitch, but also off it as an entertainment company. Pogba is huge in that, much more so than Jose Mourinho.”
Balague said: “Mourinho has a Plan B – if it doesn’t work out well he can always say ‘I tried, everybody has seen I tried but the players were not reacting to my methods’. So it’s always a win-win situation with Mourinho. Now we’re finding a little bit of a crossroads here – who goes first?”
BBC Radio 5 live’s European football reporter Steve Crossman said: “The very fact we’re talking about all these clubs that would want him tells you why maybe Pogba would be more likely to outlast the situation with Jose Mourinho.
“A lot of people say you have to back the manager as it’s one player versus a manager in charge of a whole team. But it’s not Jose Mourinho’s team. It’s a team made up of disparate parts of the last four managers. It’s not a case of who’d want Pogba now; it’s more who would want Mourinho?
“When you think of how football fans seem to follow players more than clubs, that’s exactly the kind of thing Mourinho wouldn’t like.
“He and Pogba arrived in the same summer – I seem to remember the social media post for Jose Mourinho being somebody posting the front page of the contract and that was it.
“For Pogba, he had a hashtag, he had sponsors talking about the move as well as a music video with Stormzy. Mourinho probably wasn’t massively enamoured with Pogba before he got going.”
Laurens said: “I’m not sure PSG would even welcome Mourinho any more with the struggles he’s had this season, the football he’s played and the criticism from the players.”
How should Mourinho be handling Pogba?
Pogba came into the season on a high after helping France to win the World Cup this summer in Russia. On the pitch he has had a good start, scoring four goals – two-thirds of his tally for last season – and setting up another two.
But Mourinho told Pogba this week that he is no longer his vice-captain, although he has not revealed why. The midfielder said the club should “attack, attack, attack” after a 1-1 draw with Wolves – but Mourinho insists there “is no fallout”.
“Mourinho doesn’t have to be like [France boss] Didier Deschamps,” said Laurens. “Deschamps showed how to use Pogba, not just on the field but off it too. It’s quite simple.
“So did Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte at Juventus. I remember Conte saying sometimes with Pogba it’s the stick and the carrot.
“He was young then but now he needs to feel like you rely on him and value him and trust him to be a leader. The vice-captain armband worked well and was a good idea. To take it away from him was stupid.
“He hasn’t always been amazing for United but he had so much momentum going into the new season after that World Cup that it would be a shame not to bank on that. That’s why I struggle to see why Mourinho clashes so much with him when everything is there for Pogba to take his United career to a new level.”
Horncastle said: “Mourinho is the one who is provoking it. The training ground incident is the best example yet of just how cold this relationship seems to have become.
“Contrast it with some of the stuff Juventus used to put out when he was playing there – he was staying back after training, playing all kinds of games with Allegri and Paulo Dybala – not these war games going on between him and Mourinho.”
Balague said: “Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing. He knew the cameras were there.
“We’ve all experienced Jose Mourinho and these factions from him. He wants everybody alert all the time. He wants them to be alert and even for his players to see him as the enemy because he wants them to react with pride and be upset sometimes and get a reaction.
“But now the players are different. Pogba is the owner of himself, as he showed when he reacted back.
“The problem is times have moved on. I get the impression Mourinho is using the same method as earlier of getting everyone on their toes but players aren’t reacting to it any more.”
Balague wonders if their dispute is all that bad, though, adding: “He has distracted the attention from the draw with Wolves and defeat by Derby in the way he likes to do. At the bottom of this, he’s trying to get the best out of his best player.
“Pogba has four goals and two assists in seven matches – are we actually saying we are expecting more from him? Is this not enough? Is Jose Mourinho doing in it the right way to get the best out of him?”