Pogba agent hints at Real move
PARIS — The club that has the best “sporting project” and gives coveted France international Paul Pogba an opportunity to win titles will have an advantage when it comes to signing the Juventus midfielder, his agent has revealed.
The 23-year-old is contracted to the Italian champions until June 2019 but his stellar play over the past two seasons has led to constant speculation in the European media of a big-money move to another club.
“Pogba’s interest is not in being the most expensive signing and neither is it mine,” his agent Mino Raiola told Madrid-based Spanish sports daily Marca.
“The aim is for him to join the best sporting project and win as many titles as possible,” he added. “We are talking with three teams and Paul likes the sporting projects of some of those.”
One European side the French midfielder has been linked with is Real Madrid, a club that has the added attraction of Frenchman Zinedine Zidane as coach.
“Paul dreams of winning the Ballon d’or... Real Madrid is a fantastic club to achieve that,” Raiola said. “He admires Zidane. He has always told me that. This is going to be very important in his decision.
“However, he needs to choose a project, not a coach, as coaches come and go.”
Asked about Real’s interest, Raiola said: “It’s not a secret. Each year I meet with Real Madrid but also with (Manchester) United, Barcelona, (Manchester) City, Liverpool... it’s my job.
“We are talking (with Real) but nothing is decided. Zidane’s wish is important. The club’s wish is important.
“We are in the initial phase. It’s not a negotiation. Both sides know what it wants and we shall see if we complete a deal or it ends in divorce.”
Zidane, who helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000, represented both Juventus and Real Madrid during his career.
He replaced Rafa Benitez as coach of Real in January and steered the Spanish giants to the Champions League title last month.
Pogba made 48 appearances in all competitions for Juve this past season, helping the club clinch a Serie A and Coppa Italia double.
“He wouldn’t have a problem staying at Juventus,” Raiola said. “He is very happy there.”
Raiola said the player would weigh up his options and ultimately decide.
“Paul chooses his future as it’s the logical thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, France coach Didier Deschamps hailed Paul Pogba’s “great, great potential” after the midfielder put a difficult week behind him to shine in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Switzerland.
The Juventus star was one of few bright spots in a drab final Euro 2016 Group A game at Lille’s Stade Pierre-mauroy, twice clipping the crossbar and testing Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer with a crisp halfvolley.
Pogba created a scandal after appearing to celebrate a goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Albania with an explicit arm pump known in French as a ‘ bras d’honneur’, but Deschamps was pleased with his display against the Swiss after restoring the 23-year-old to the starting XI.
“Paul was the animator of the game in the first half,” said Deschamps, whose side progressed to the last 16 as group winners.
“He had two quality strikes. After, in the second half, he got forward less. But he has great, great potential and I have confidence in him, of course.
“He only didn’t start the last match (against Albania) because we had three matches in nine days and we got back very, very late from Marseille.
“It’s also because of that that I brought in a bit of freshness (making five changes). We need Paul at his highest level.”
The result meant that France, who also struck the bar through substitute Dimitri Payet, will play the third-place team in either Group C, D or E in the last 16 in Lyon on June 26.
“We were there to secure first place and we did it, so it’s mission accomplished,” Deschamps said.
“Technically, this Swiss team do some nice things, but we had the better chances. Had we been a bit more clinical or had more luck, we could have won.
“In terms of control, we need to do better so we can avoid having to defend a bit too much.”
Despite his satisfaction with the outcome of the match, Deschamps could not disguise his disappointment with a dry, patchy playing surface that made fluid football difficult.
“The players did well (in the circumstances),” he said. “Even the one we had in Marseille was better.
“It’s sad. I don’t know who’s responsible, but we’re only in the group stage and to see a pitch in a state like that is really not a good thing.”
Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba.