Why Barcelona will be praying that Pogba stays at Juventus
Pogba is the most sought-after star in world football, but the Blaugrana will be hoping he goes nowhere fast
In Italy he’s ‘Mr €100 million’, while in Spain he’s the hottest prospect on the market. But on Saturday night he will be one of 22 footballers lining up for potentially the biggest moment of his career.
Paul Pogba has seemed destined for greatness ever since he immediately stamped his mark on the Juventus first team after arriving from Manchester United. Less than three years on, he will play in a Champions League final this weekend and is set to be Europe's most sought-after star this summer.
But while he gets set to take on Barcelona in Berlin, the Catalan side might well have an even bigger say in his future. For while he was previously the subject of much speculation relating to Real Madrid, it is the Spanish champions who now appear the most likely to extricate the Frenchman from Juventus.
After La Stampa had claimed Madrid had solidified their interest in him with a bid, los Blancos were quick to deny having made any approach. A club statement insisted: “Real Madrid have had no contact either with Juventus or the player's agent and, as a consequence, the reports published in this newspaper are completely false.”
And the repeated presence of Barca sporting director Ariedo Braida around Juventus in the first half of 2015 – most recently at their team hotel in Milan ahead of the May victory over Inter – has raised the possibility of a move to Catalunya for the 22-year-old. Braida is said to have met with Juventus counterpart Beppe Marotta on a number of occasions, but more in depth talks are only likely to be held once Barcelona's presidential elections have taken place on July 26.
One stumbling block, of course, is Barcelona’s current transfer ban. The four-time European champions cannot register any new players during the summer period due to a two-window suspension for signing underage foreign players.
That rules out a possible move for Pogba until January 2016 at the earliest, and the following summer as a more likely target. Goal’s sources in Spain suggest Barcelona will spend the next year trying to bargain their way into the position of a preferred buyer, but that relies on Pogba remaining happy in Turin for another year.
With Xavi departing for Qatar in the coming weeks and Andres Iniesta now 31, Barcelona are known to be looking at options to strengthen their midfield department. While Ilkay Gundogan would become a target should the Blaugrana manage to have their ban overturned, the longer-term project appears to be a move for Pogba.
The player’s agent, Mino Raiola, is notorious for his ability to generate interest in his star players. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli have become known for their attractiveness in the market, with the Italy-born representative having been key to several lucrative moves for both players.
Should Pogba wish to leave Juve this summer, Raiola is sure to find an interested club. The Frenchman is said to be very happy where he is right now, though, and that can only work in Barca’s favour for the time being.
Juventus, however, have no preferred buyer. The Bianconeri insist they would not look to sell the player unless a bid of a phenomenal level is received, leading to speculation that it would take a €100m offer for them to part with the midfielder. Whatever the wiggle room that might be negotiated, it is clear that very few clubs across the world would be able to challenge Barcelona if it came to an auction.
Speaking to reporters at Juventus’ press day on Monday ahead of this weekend’s final, Pogba responded to talk of a move to Barcelona with a straight bat but admitted it would be a huge moment for him to take to the field alongside Lionel Messi.
“Playing with Messi would be a dream come true,” he admitted. “He’s the best player in the world. I love watching Barcelona play, but I also love watching them lose.”
But the chances of Pogba and Messi stepping on the pitch together on a far more regular basis in years to come may well be dictated by Juventus’ ability to keep the Frenchman happy for the duration of the summer window.
If Pogba remains with the Bianconeri when time is called on transfer activity at the beginning of September it could be just as big a victory for Barcelona as it will be for Juventus.
By Kris Voakes