Pogba agent hints at Real move

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.”

— AFP

Ju­ven­tus mid­fielder Paul Pogba.

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