Pogba, Man United and Raiola: Unpacking what this week’s ‘shock’ transfer news

Paul Pogba‘s agent, Mino Raiola, caused outrage earlier this week when he said Pogba needed to leave Manchester United.

“Paul is unhappy at United… he’s not able to express himself the way he would like to and the way others expect him to,” Raiola said. “His contract expires in 18 months, in the summer of 2022, so I think the best solution for all concerned is if he’s sold in the next window.” Otherwise, Raiola warned, United risked losing him as a free agent since “for the time being, [Pogba] doesn’t want to extend his contract.”

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“If you don’t understand this, you don’t understand much of football,” Raiola added. “In any case, just put all the blame on me if next summer Paul leaves.”

Raiola can rest assured. He’ll be blamed whether Pogba stays or leaves.

In some ways, there’s a lot to unpack there and in others, there’s very little: Raiola is doing what Raiola does. He’s an agent — he’s looking out for what he thinks is his client’s best interest. He works for Pogba, not United. (Though, of course, he has worked for, and been paid by, United in the past and guess what? He’ll likely work for, and be paid by them, again if they bring in another one of his clients, like, say, Erling Haaland.)

If you dig a little deeper and apply a spot of logic, you’re left with one main doubt: what if United are in on this? What if, far from being dismayed by Raiola’s words, they actually welcome them as a way of cutting through the nonsense and speculation?

Nobody’s going to dispute the fact that Pogba hasn’t lived up to his transfer fee or wages. (By the way, transfer fees and wages are really another way of saying “expectations.”) In that, you’d assume Raiola and those who think the agent is the Spawn of Satan would agree.

Pogba is 27, and there are obviously mitigating circumstances to explain why he hasn’t lived up to his billing. His relationship with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s predecessor, Jose Mourinho, wasn’t great and since the start of last season, he’s been beset by injuries (he was out for two long spells) and also had a rough time with COVID-19.

Simply put, United’s job is to figure out what they think he can contribute should he extend his contract. Assess the different scenarios — ranging from “Pogba harnesses his immense talent and leads United to win the Premier League!” to “Pogba sulks and becomes a bit player” — and determine the likelihood of each. Factor in what sort of fee you might be able to get should you consent to let him leave. Consider whether you have a replacement in-house (Donny van de Beek?) or how much you’d want to spend to get another player (or…

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