One week in December and Paul Pogba’s transfer circus was back in full swing.
On the eve of Manchester United’s most important game of the season so far against RB Leipzig, a game that would decide the fate of the Champions League, Mino Raiola’s interview with the Italian outlet Tuttosport was teased.
Raiola claimed Pogba’s time at Old Trafford was over and called on the club to allow the World Cup winner to leave. He also extolled a return to Juventus.
He said: “Maybe Juventus could be Pogba’s next club … why not? The relationship between Paul, Juventus and former teammates is excellent. But with the COVID impact, many clubs cannot sign him. Sure, it’s time to go.” Manchester United. Yes, Paul Pogba can return to Juventus. He’s not happy at Manchester United. “
As Raiola mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on the finances of every club in world football. A deal to sign Pogba would prove extremely costly and Juventus had to tighten their wallets. It is becoming more and more apparent that Pogba leaving United is the best fit for all parties and an easy way to deal with Juventus’ financial troubles could be a swap deal.
MEN Sport takes a look at five players United could ask for in exchange for their star midfielder.
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An obvious candidate for a possible partial exchange would be striker Paulo Dybala – a former United target.
United wanted the Argentine to replace Romelu Lukaku last summer and opened talks with Juventus over a swap deal with the Belgian. Ultimately, the Reds refused to meet the striker’s exorbitant wage demands, and the move collapsed after Lukaku agreed terms on a move to Turin.
Reports in Italy continue to link Dybala to an exit whose contract expires in the summer of 2022 – at the same time as Pogba’s current contract ends. Andrea Pirlo has used the 27-year-old sporadically since taking office and could approve his departure.
Dybala is a versatile striker who could play a variety of roles for United. Its stock is undoubtedly lower than it was at the time of United’s interest, but it remains a top-forward option.
Matthijs de Ligt
Another Juventus player with whom United has a history is defender Matthijs de Ligt, who was followed by the club before leaving Ajax.
United admired the defender last summer but expected him to join Barcelona before his eventual move to Italy. De Ligt was spotted by United ahead of his Ajax debut and former coach Jose Mourinho had expressed an interest in signing the Dutchman.
The defender struggled under the weight of expectations in Turin and was already temporarily linked with an exit. United are in the center-back market and the 21-year-old could get back on his radar.
However, he’s also represented by Raiola, who is likely to fail a swap deal.
With De Ligt most likely unavailable due to his ties to Raiola, United was able to turn their attention to teammate Merih Demiral. The Turkish defender joined the club from Sassuolo last summer and has become a key player for the old lady.
Given United’s urgent need for a new center-back, Demiral could be the preferred option for a swap deal. Juventus shouldn’t be ready to lose their center-back but may consider the prospect of Pogba’s return to be more important.
A Turkish international at the age of 22, Demiral is the dominant center-back needed at Old Trafford. The youngster also took inspiration from one of United’s greatest defenders in Nemanja Vidic. Demiral said: “When I was young I always follow Nemanja Vidić at Manchester United. I’ve always seen clips of him on the internet. He’s still my idol even though he’s retired. He was brave, a warrior. He has never gave up and was a true leader. “
Pogba’s departure would leave a void in the United States midfield that arguably needs no filling. Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic would all be able to fight for more minutes in the first team if the Frenchman leaves, but Solskjaer could dive into the market for another natural midfielder.
The ideal complement could be Uruguay’s star Rodrigo Bentancur. The 23-year-old has played 124 games for the club and won three Serie A titles. Juventus won’t want to lose him but could warm to the idea as Pogba’s arrival would create direct competition in the engine room.
Bentancur is a mobile midfielder who would be the perfect successor to Matic. Thriving defensively and offensively, his arrival would quickly help United fans forget about Pogba.
Any United fan would agree that Cristiano Ronaldo would return to the Theater of Dreams through the dream swap.
Reports in Italy have linked the Portuguese with leaving the club and it was no surprise that United was linked with a move for their club icon, as is usually the case with rumors about the striker. MEN Sport understands that United has no plans to re-sign the strikers and club sources and laughs at the suggestion that a deal be discussed.
Even so, it is possible that Pogba’s upcoming departure will change her attitude. Juventus have to balance the books and Ronaldo’s departure would make up for most of Pogba’s salary package. Even at 35, Ronaldo continues to dominate at the highest level and would be adored upon his return.
The chances of such a deal happening are slim, but United fans will be happy to point out that strange things have happened.