Manchester City could be set to make a shock move to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba this summer, according to a number of reports.
MEN Sports understands Pogba is an option for City this summer. Pogba’s contract at United expires at the end of June, meaning that City could sign him without paying a transfer fee. With Fernandinho set to leave the club at the end of the season and Ilkay Gundogan struggling with injuries in recent months, Pogba represents a relatively affordable way for Pep Guardiola to reinforce his midfield.
The big question is: would he suit City’s and Guardiola’s style? There are of course a few reservations. At times, Pogba’s attitude towards him at United has been far from ideal, while his ability to press him (or lack thereof) could concern Guardiola. Pogba is undoubtedly a global superstar, as much a one-man marketing brand as he is a professional footballer.
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That profile of player is not in keeping with City’s previous transfer business and could disrupt the balance of the team and ethos of the dressing room. However, these are things that could be ironed out. From a pure footballing perspective, the prospect of Pogba teaming up with Guardiola and playing in this City team makes this one of the most exciting potential transfers in years.
Pogba has endured a frustrating six seasons since returning to United from Juventus, constantly fluctuating between periods of inspired form and spells of ghosting through games. However, it does feel that at United, more often than not, the main problem has been the system and the team around him rather than Pogba himself.
One only needs to see how Pogba regularly performs at a high level for France but not at Old Trafford. United fans often moan that Pogba simply tries harder for his national side, but the freedom afforded to him by coach Didier Deschamps has extracted the most out of the talented midfielder.
For France, Pogba has been the main man, often playing as a number eight in a midfield three or as part of a midfield pivot, with the likes of N’Golo Kante doing the bulk of the defensive work. Both systems have given Pogba the freedom to attack at will, whereas at United, multiple managers have expected him to be a holding midfielder with limitations on when and how he can attack. At Old Trafford, he’s been wasted.
So, if the upshot is that Pogba needs freedom and few defensive responsibilities, would he get that under Guardiola? Perhaps a year ago the answer would have been no, but in the second half of this season Guardiola’s side have become slightly less controlling and a bit more dynamic in attack. The resurgence of Kevin De Bruyne has broken up the ball-hogging midfield trio of Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Gundogan, the latter’s magnetism on the ball making way for the surging runs and piercing through balls of the Belgian.
While Guardiola might not start both De Bruyne and Pogba in the same starting XI, the move to a more transition-based attack has created a space in which Pogba could fit. In many ways, Pogba is Guardiola’s dream midfielder. He possesses impeccable technique and an astonishing passing range, while he has the intuitive knack of arriving in the box at just the right moment.
Pogba also possesses a quality that City’s current midfielders – De Bruyne aside – lack; the ability and confidence to take shots on from distance should the opportunity arise. He would also offer an aerial presence in attack, something the Blues currently lack as a fallback option.
With the signing of Erling Haaland edging ever closer, next season City are going to be a more direct team than over the past two years. Available on a free transfer, Pogba could be the perfect addition to help feed the Norwegian with high-quality chances.
Pogba at United has been like giving a Ferrari to someone who barely knows how to drive. At City, he could have the manager, teammates and system to thrive and return him to the apex of world football. Both parties would reap the rewards.
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