Saturday 22 July 2017

Mourinho backing 'best midfielder in the world' Pogba to bag Ballon d'Or

Paul Pogba: improving all the time Picture: Reuters
Paul Pogba: improving all the time Picture: Reuters

James Ducker

Jose Mourinho has told Manchester United fans they will not see the best of Paul Pogba until next season, but the manager is convinced the France midfielder can end Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's duopoly of the Ballon d'Or.

Mourinho has also made it clear to United's hierarchy that he has no intention of allowing forwards Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford to leave on loan in the transfer window next month.

Pogba has overcome a slow start at Old Trafford, in the wake of his world record £89m move from Juventus in the summer, to help lead United's renaissance in recent weeks. He has four assists in his past seven games, each of which has been for a goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with whom he has struck up an impressive understanding.

But while Mourinho expects Pogba to continue improving during the second half of the season, the United manager believes the 23-year-old Frenchman will come into his own next term.

"The Premier League is very difficult," Mourinho said. "You play three, four years in Italy and you come to the Premier League and the world is completely different.

"He's doing well, he's doing more than well. His evolution is clear. So I can imagine that next season for Paul will be top."

The Ballon d'Or - the annual award for the world's best player - has been shared between Ronaldo and Messi for the past nine years, but Mourinho is backing Pogba to break that cycle.

"At the moment, if you're not a goalscorer, you cannot win the Ballon d'Or," Mourinho told French television station SFR.

"But if the perception changes, then Paul can win it because Paul is not a goalscorer. Paul is a midfielder who will score more and more goals because I think he has good conditions to score goals.

"Paul is a midfielder - in my opinion the best, the best in the world. Obviously he's young, he can still improve. He wants to improve, which is even better."

Pogba's compatriot and United team-mate Martial has been having a less successful season, but Mourinho will not countenance letting the player or fellow forward Rashford leave on loan, despite considerable interest in the pair.

Martial has struggled to hold down a starting place during a difficult second season at Old Trafford and Philippe Lamboley, the player's agent, claimed yesterday that they have been exploring the possibility of a loan move to Sevilla until the end of the season.

West Ham United are also interested in taking Martial or Rashford on loan.

"We are studying the Sevilla option in detail," Lamboley told ABC de Sevilla.

"Sevilla are a very good club, are in a good position in La Liga, play in the Champions League and have a great coach. That's all I can tell you."

However, United are adamant that Martial forms an important part of Mourinho's plans and that they will rebuff any approaches for the 21-year-old.

United, meanwhile, have cooled their interest for now in Benfica and Sweden centre-half Victor Lindelof, who is unlikely to join the club next month.

The form of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in central defence has persuaded Mourinho that there is no pressing need to buy.

The Manchester United manager also has Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind to call upon at centre-half. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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