Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said that the club has an ‘open dialogue’ with star midfielder Paul Pogba about his contract situation and future at Old Trafford.
Agent Mino Raiola openly claimed in December that Pogba had become unhappy at United and wanted to leave. He also effectively threatened the club by pointing out that his client can leave as a free agent when his current contract expires in 2022 if they refuse to sell.
Raiola was widely criticised for the timing and bluntness of his message in the same week as a crunch Champions League game against RB Leipzig that United went on to lose. Pogba was not directly involved but was at least thought to be complicit because he never took any action to deny what his agent had said if it was untrue.
However, things appear to have changed since then. Pogba was in and out of the United lineup at that time and has now re-taken a regular starting place in a team that has improved enough to have forced its way into the Premier League title race for the first time since 2013.
The Frenchman appears happier on the pitch and it is reflected in more consistent performances. Previously, he cut a frustrated figure head and shoulders above teammates below his level. Now, others are much closer to him and complementing his game and vice versa.
It is still not certain either way will happen at the end of the season – whether he signs a contract or pursues a transfer away, but Solskjaer’s comments suggest there is a healthy relationship between the player and club and the situation will continue to be monitored.
“We’ve got a good open dialogue with Paul, so what we talk about and how we see that situation remains between us of course,” the United is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“I’m just happy he’s focused, he’s playing really well and he’s happy in himself and that’s important. You can see Paul now enjoying playing football with a red shirt on.”
If United cannot convince Pogba to sign a new contract, a sale this coming is a must to recoup a transfer fee before he is able to leave as a free agent in 2022. Equally, the player, soon to turn 28, will be aware that inking a fresh deal will see him commit the remainder of his best years to the club.
It could end up that staying put and signing a new contract is Pogba’s only realistic option. The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out any possible market for him, with the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona all interested but strapped for cash. Were he to run down his contract and try his luck in free agency, he may find that any offers can’t match his expectation.
Real are prioritising a move for Kylian Mbappe this year but are expected to have to sell a number of players and potentially finance some of the transfer with a loan to afford it. Juve are rumoured to want rid of Cristiano Ronaldo because his contract is too much of a financial strain as it is, while Barcelona are in full-on financial crisis with debts estimated to have spiralled to €1bn.