London (AFP) – Manchester United have stepped up their world record chase for Paul Pogba by reportedly thrashing out a huge financial package with his agent while the Juventus midfielder eagerly awaits developments in sun-kissed Miami.
United manager Jose Mourinho has made Pogba his top transfer target as he bids to make a big impact in his first season at Old Trafford and a record-breaking £100 million ($130 million, 119 million euros) deal looks to have moved closer on Wednesday.
British media reported United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward pulled out of the club’s pre-season tour to China to meet Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola on Wednesday, when the pair negotiated a prospective five-year contract worth £220,000-per-week after tax.
Although United are believed to have had an opening bid of £86 million rejected by Juventus, they are certain to test the Italian champions’ resolve with an improved offer that would easily shatter the previous world record fee of £85 million paid by Real Madrid for Gareth Bale in 2013.
While Pogba’s future is debated by some of football’s leading powerbrokers, the man himself appeared completely unflustered by the hype while on holiday with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, who is another of Raiola’s clients.
A series of social media posts by the star show Pogba soaking up the sunshine and working out in Miami, where he has also been pictured playing basketball while wearing a jersey of the recently crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Determined to restore United to their former glory as he tries to erase the stain of his sacking by Chelsea last season, Mourinho has already spent more than £50 million on defender Eric Bailly from Villarreal and midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as well as recruiting former Paris Saint Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer.
– Courtship –
But it is Mourinho’s expensive courtship of Pogba which has developed into the most high-profile transfer saga of the close-season.
While his capture would be a major coup, it would also be a source of a few rueful looks at Old Trafford after the 23-year-old was allowed to leave for Juventus on a free transfer just four years ago.
The Turin giants persuaded Pogba to turn his back on United in 2012 after he made just a handful of appearances in England and fell out with then manager Alex Ferguson, who slammed him for showing no respect to the club.
Pogba has since emerged as one of the top midfielders in Europe, playing an integral part in the France side that reached the Euro 2016 final and helping Juventus win four successive Serie A titles.
Juventus won’t make the same mistake as United and have made it clear they want at least £100 million, plus £8 million in add-ons for Pogba.
Complicating matters for United and increasing their desire to tie up the transfer quickly is a potential bid from Real Madrid, whose French manager Zinedine Zidane is a confirmed admirer of Pogba.
But Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri insisted Pogba had a difficult decision to make because United can’t match his club’s domestic dominance at present and also don’t have Champions League action to offer.
“Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs,” Allegri was quoted as saying by the Italian media.
“This is not a selling club that just lets its players go. Pogba belongs to Juve and at the end of the day he too will want to win another Scudetto and hopefully the Champions League.”