Paul Pogba expects to leave Manchester United this summer, but the club are determined that he will not be sold in a cut-price deal, sources have told ESPN.
Pogba was keen to leave Old Trafford last summer but was convinced to stay for at least another season by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The France international believes he will be allowed to move at the end of the campaign, with Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, or former club Juventus, his preferred destinations.
Despite Solskjaer’s public declarations that Pogba will not be sold, there is a growing feeling among key figures that the 26-year-old — along with agent Mino Raiola — is becoming too big a distraction and will have to move on.
However, United insist privately that they will not be put on the back foot during any negotiations and are prepared to stick to their valuation of more than £150 million.
Pogba has 18 months left on the contract he signed when he joined from Juventus for a then-world-record fee of £89.3m in 2016, and United also hold an option to extend it until June 2022.
United are prepared to enter into talks with any serious bidder, but there remain significant doubts about whether Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus could afford a substantial transfer fee and Pogba’s hefty wage packet.
Pogba has not featured for United since coming on as a half-time substitute in the 4-1 win over Newcastle on Dec. 26 and has been restricted to just eight appearances all season. He underwent ankle surgery in January, with sources having told ESPN the procedure was to correct a osteochondral defect.
He has started light running without a cast but, due to the seriousness of the issue, United are refusing to put any timescale on a return to first-team action.
Pogba has responded well to treatment and there is hope he will be available again this season and feature for France at this summer’s European Championship, but United are remaining cautious about an injury that has caused significant problems for other players.
English midfielder Gary O’Neil was sidelined for eight months during a spell at West Ham after undergoing surgery on an osteochondral ankle defect in 2011.
Meanwhile, after launching a blistering attack on Solskjaer via Twitter on Monday night, Raiola again spoke about Pogba’s future in an interview with talkSPORT on Tuesday.
“I’ve been asked something about if he would like Italy and I am only just answering as Mino Raiola — am I not allowed to do that?” Raiola said. “I have never said he is mine but that doesn’t mean if I’m asked something I can’t answer.
“He is an employee of Manchester United. They do not own him. Pogba and I respect United.
“I have no problem with Manchester United. There is no division between me and Manchester United. Ole already snapped out at me two times on other occasions but that’s all up to him.
“The only thing is to get back as soon as possible into the team or fit enough to get into the team. It is up to the manager to pick him and to focus on the end of the season and make a good season for Man United.”