Wednesday 7 December 2016

Real set to leave Pogba bidding war as Mourinho ditches young guns

Ian Herbert

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Paul Pogba
Paul Pogba

Manchester United have been left a clear run in their push to sign Paul Pogba, with Real Madrid's interest in the French midfielder fading and a £100m Old Trafford bid for the 23-year-old now imminent.

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United manager Jose Mourinho has made it very clear that he does not have same faith in young players as his predecessor Louis van Gaal, with James Wilson, Tyler Blackett and Guillermo Verela all omitted from the club's pre-season tour squad that embarked for China on Tuesday and now likely to be offloaded.

With Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola showing interest in young English talent - through an official telephone inquiry about 17-year-old West Ham defender Reece Oxford on Monday night - Mourinho is pushing United to press home the world record Pogba deal.

Read more: Promising young trio to be axed by Manchester United as Jose Mourinho continues overhaul

United have already passed up the chance to buy Portuguese star Renato Sanches to focus their efforts on Pogba.

It was becoming clear last night that Real president Florentino Perez does not want to join the chase for the Frenchman, who does not fit the profile of player he generally likes to sign. Perez prefers instead to pursue Valencia's Portuguese midfielder Andre Gomes.

With no other club in the race for the Frenchman, that leaves the ground clear for United to make the first play of what promises to be the biggest transfer deal of the summer, with Juventus demanding £100m plus £13m add-ons dependent on Pogba's performances, goals and trophies with United.

United, who are likely to want to cap the size of the Pogba deal at £100m, would see the midfielder's arrival as a huge statement of intent as a big player on the world stage.

With their vast earning power could certainly both to pay the 23-year-old's £250,000 salary and to smash the world transfer record.

An Instagram image of himself Pogba published on Tuesday did enough to cause United some concern. It captured him dressed all in white - Real's colours - with the comments 'tout blanc - peace' and 'all in white - peace.'

Watch: Judging by his Instagram post, Jose Mourinho is very excited about Man United's trip to China

But the fact that most of United's heavy outlay this summer has been in clients of agent Mino Raiola - Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Henrikh Mkhitaryan - suggests that they will be very aware of Pogba's wishes and in a good position to begin negotiations.

La Gazzetta dello Sport insisted yesterday that Pogba would leave Turin and that Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain would arrive to take his place.

The withdrawal of Real from the race will be a boost to United, given the way that the Spanish side thwarted their attempts to formulate a transfer policy last summer - holding onto Sergio Ramos, whom the Old Trafford club were convinced would be joining them, and continually threatening to poach David de Gea until the last day of the window.

Perez's preference for Gomes was made clear yesterday when journalists close to the president at Marca - a Real mouthpiece - pushed the Portuguese's case hard. Gomes' image dominated the paper's front cover and the notion of Real signing covered a subsequent two pages. "Andre Gomes - mas cerca" ('Andre Gomes - closer') the banner headline claimed.

Real's interest in Pogba waned after a European Championships in which he did not take the breath away, despite some excellent performances.

There has been no clamour among Real fans to sign him. The situation could change if Real were to make a big sale themselves, possibly James Rodriguez who is yet fully to establish himself. But there is a growing sense that the route to Pogba will remain clear for United.

Though City have identified central defence as such a major problem that they want to buy both Everton's John Stones and Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci, West Ham teenager Oxford would be seen as one for the future. He is understood to relish the idea of developing under Guardiola.

The teenager has two years of his West Ham contract to run but negotiations about an improvement to his terms have not yielded a breakthrough and that strengthens the hand of a bidding club.

United are also actively interested and have also scouted the player, though Tottenham are thought to be further down the pecking order. (© Independent News Service)

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