Sunday 23 September 2018

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho left bemused by Paul Pogba remarks

Paul Pogba’s form has been inconsistent since Mourinho brought him to Old Trafford two years ago (Martin Rickett/PA)
Paul Pogba’s form has been inconsistent since Mourinho brought him to Old Trafford two years ago (Martin Rickett/PA)

Sam Wallace

Jose Mourinho is understood to have been bemused at Paul Pogba’s strong suggestion that all was not well between him and his manager on Friday night at Old Trafford, with the player having voiced no complaints personally after his return to the club that week.

Mourinho is expected to address the issue when he next speaks this week ahead of the game against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday, although it is understood that Pogba’s words came out the blue for the United manager. Mourinho recognises that he can be provocative at times in a bid to get a response but expects his players to raise any issues that they have with him to his face.

The pair get on well together, Mourinho believes, and his remarks were constructive and fair. There have never been any clashes on the training ground. Having suggested Pogba had lack of focus during his time at United, Mourinho would have expected any comeback from the player before that first game against Leicester for which the player returned to the team ahead of schedule.

Pogba had trained with the squad for the previous three days before the Leicester City game and was made captain on the night which Mourinho felt was enough of a signal of faith in the player despite the comments by both sides over the course of the summer. When asked after the game whether he was happy at the club, Pogba said, in remarks published on Sunday, that “There are things I cannot say, otherwise I will get fined.”

The tension between the two sides has chiefly been created, Mourinho believes, by the player’s agent Mino Raiola while within the training ground there are no issues between the £89 million man and his manager. When Mourinho made his comments during the summer about a World Cup finals being the “perfect habitat” for Pogba, because he was “completely isolated from the external world”, it was the situation with Raiola that was central to his thinking.

Whether Barcelona, who seem to be Pogba’s chief suitor, could afford the kind of fee to sign him either in this window or the next remains seriously in doubt. United believe that any pursuit of the player that continues to the end of the transfer window will be purely for the purpose of suggesting that Barcelona have ambition – if not the resources.

Barcelona’s preliminary financial figures for the year 2017-2018 were published last month and show that the club made an operating profit of €31 million for that period, despite selling Neymar for around €198 million – all of which was paid up front as his release fee.

The cost of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool and Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmunds is spread over the course of their five-year contracts for the purposes of the results and as a consequence represents a cost of around €45 million annually. With profits of €31 million it begs the question what costs have swallowed up the remaining €90-€100 million from the Neymar deal, with Barcelona, like Real Madrid, also struggling with a wage bill of around €400 million annually.

Barcelona bitterly resisted Paris Saint-Germain’s pursuit and signing of Neymar last summer but it would appear that fee was central to keeping the Catalan club in profit for another year.

As for them paying a fee comparable to the one it cost to sign Coutinho from Liverpool in January, that feels unlikely in their current circumstances. The club’s board is not allow to borrow more than ten per cent of their revenue, boosted to a record €916 million by the Neymar sale, without first putting it to a vote of their membership.

Barcelona have already spent around €125 million on players, chiefly Malcom (from Bordeaux), Clement Lenglet (Seville), Arthur (Gremio) and Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich).

That has been offset by the sales of Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne to Everton for a combined total of €50 million. Gerard Delofeu has gone to Watford and Aleix Vidal to Seville, and in all sales have recouped around €75 million. The loan of Andre Gomes to Everton, Paulinho to Guangzhou Evergrande in China and the free transfer for Andres Iniesta to Vissel Kobe in the J-League has also lightened the load on the wage bill.

Online Editors

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport