Paul Pogba appears to be fuelling rumours of a potential departure from Manchester United.
Pogba, the midfielder, has refused to rule out an upcoming transfer by saying ‘who knows what will happen in the next few months’.
Various reports say his relationship with Jose Mourinho, the United manager, has broken down, and Barcelona are hoping to take advantage by taking the France international to Camp Nou.
United would obviously want to make profit on the £89million they paid for Pogba when they re-signed him from Juventus in 2016, but even if they receive a hefty sum it will not be easy to replace the 25-year-old.
But what players could United look to in an attempt to fill the void created should Pogba leave?
We have considered five potential targets for the Red Devils, and you can discover who they are, below…
Lazio (125 apps / 24 goals)
A well-known target of United’s, there were many reports suggesting the Red Devils would move for Milinkovic-Savic over the summer. However, that would have been overkill given the similarities between the Serbia international and Pogba, and moving for the former as a replacement for the latter makes much more sense.
Standing at 6ft 3in, the towering Milinkovic-Savic looks like a midfield destroyer but plays like a diminutive No.10. With his physical dominance and technical gifts it is no wonder he has been compared to Pogba, and what better way to replace the France international than with a younger, carbon copy of him.
Barcelona (218 apps / 30 goals)
Barcelona appear to be the team trying hardest to sign Pogba, and if they were to bring him in the Camp Nou club would likely look to get rid of one of their current midfielders to free up space in Ernesto Valverde’s squad.
Ivan Rakitic, 30, would seem the the most likely victim of Pogba’s arrival, and United could look to include the Croatia international in any deal taking the France star to Catalonia.
He has proven quality having starred for Barca in over 200 matches, while his winning mentality and experience of securing silverware make him almost the perfect player for Jose Mourinho, who favours signings that can make an instant impact.
Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, has been against signing older players, but a swap deal involving Pogba and Rakitic would likely cost United nothing – and could even make them quite a hefty profit given Pogba is valued as much more expensive than the Croatia international.
Watford (67 apps / 8 goals)
If United would prefer to replace Pogba with a player who has Premier League experience, Doucoure, the Watford midfielder, is a fine option. The 25-year-old would not be a like-for-like replacement, given Doucoure is much more of a box-to-box midfielder than Pogba – who prefers the attacking phase – but he has shown he knows where the back of the net is; Doucoure’s ratio of one goal every eight games is only slightly worse than Pogba’s one goal every six games, and he is playing for a worse team.
Doucoure penned a new contract earlier this season which means Watford would be looking for a hefty fee for their midfield ace, but he appears to be a perfect Ed Woodward signing – relatively young, clearly talented… and with huge resale value.
Bayern Munich (157 apps / 26 goals)
27-year-old Thiago is another who is consistently linked with an Old Trafford switch, and what better time to bring him in than when Pogba leaves?
Signing Thiago would require Jose Mourinho to change his style of play, as he would be losing an out-and-out attacking midfielder for more of a dominating player, with Thiago very much schooled in the Barcelona style. He is a supremely gifted passer of the ball, and is adept at retaining possession in all manner of situations.
The Spain international’s biggest strength is his ability to dictate the pace of the game. This is something United have longed for Pogba to do, but he has failed at his job except on few situations. Thiago may not be as flashy as the France star, but he will bring something to United they have lacked since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club – complete control of the opposition.
Lyon (51 apps / 1 goal)
It would be typical of United to splash the cash on a big-name signing if Pogba leaves, mostly to appease fans who would hate to see such a famous player replaced by some no-name midfielder. However, the wisest decision for the Red Devils may be to look around for a young talent who can be moulded into the player Pogba has failed to become.
Ndombele is showing a wealth of talent despite his youth, with the 21-year-old starring for Lyon since joining on loan from Amiens last season; he made his move permanent this summer.
Given his physical attributes, Ndombele has been somewhat typecast as nothing more than an athletic midfielder – but the youngster is so much more than that.
He is brilliant at winning possession and immediately turning the game to Lyon’s advantage, dribbling into the final third with speed to put his side on the attack. When in attacking zones his passing is good, if not great, though his average of just under two key passes per game in 2017/18 suggests there is potential for him to become a good chance creator.
He is already fine in defence and is showing promise in attack, and in a few years Ndombele could be one of the most dynamic midfielders in the game. It would be a risk replacing Pogba with the youngster, but it’s a risk that could pay off in the greatest manner.