Paul Pogba’s public appeals for a new challenge are exactly what Zinedine Zidane wants from the Manchester United midfielder.
Both men know without forcing his way out of United, his price is unlikely to drop sufficiently to make the deal happen this summer.
His comments that ‘after all that has happened this season’ this could be ‘the best moment for a new challenge’ is exactly the sort of come-and-get-me plea that Zidane hopes will bring the price tumbling.
Real Madrid wanted Eden Hazard to make similar noises last summer and if he had he may not have had to wait 12 more months to join Madrid. As it was, he waited respectfully and left Chelsea on good terms with the club and the supporters, having delivered the Europa League.
There is unlikely to be same good will if Pogba leaves Old Trafford this summer. As things stand Real Madrid cannot afford the French international. They believe only an offer of £133m would satisfy United and having spent around £178m on Hazard, Stefan Jovic and Ferland Mendy, they simply cannot afford that fee.
They began the summer still hopeful that United would move for Gareth Bale so drastically reducing the money they would have to pay for Pogba. But United are not interested in Bale and Bale is not interested in United. Pogba would also command a huge salary and Real Madrid have 37 players currently on their books. The bloated first team squad must be trimmed if they are to make more signings.
Even with sales there is a reluctance on the part of president Florentino Perez to sanction the move for Pogba. He has never believed Pogba’s asking price can be justified and he has never done business with Pogba’s agent Mini Raola, who would demand a sizeable commission.
Perez will reluctantly move for Pogba if the price drops but for that to happen United must become sick of Pogba. The reaction to his latest comments are likely to play into the hands of that plan. Supporters and ex-players will back his sale — if he doesn’t want to play for them then get rid, will be the over-riding sentiment.
The deciding vote on whether he stays or goes will then come down to Ed Woodward and the Glazers who must decide whether or not they are prepared to set the price for him which Real Madrid can pay.
That magic figure remains the great ‘unknown’ in what is likely to be the saga of the summer. Madrid have made most of their squad available for sale at the right price. So far there are no offers for anyone. If that changes with the likes of Keylor Navas, Luka Modric, Isco and Marco Asensio the most likely to attract decent bids then their budget to spend swells again and they can sit down with United.
The Pogba to United bandwagon will keep rolling because both the player and Zidane want the deal to happen. The chances of the wagon rolling all the all the way up to the gates of the Bernabeu will depend on Perez’ right-hand man Jose Angel Sanchez selling players to enable him to sit down with United. More importantly, United need to be fed-up enough with Pogba to set a price that Real Madrid can pay.