Paul Pogba has told his Manchester United team-mates that he is desperate to leave Old Trafford for Barcelona.
Pogba has made it known to players and staff in the last 48 hours that he wants to be sold, two years after rejoining United from Juventus in a then world record £89million deal.
The 25-year-old France midfielder is also understood to have sent a text message to Ed Woodward, informing United’s executive vice-chairman of his desire to go, although the club flatly deny this.
United maintain that Pogba is not for sale, just two days before Jose Mourinho’s side kick off the season at home to Leicester. They would have little chance of signing a replacement before the transfer window closes in England at 5pm on Thursday.
They are now faced with the prospect of keeping an unhappy player, who is set to earn a basic wage of £9.62m this season, plus a £3.78m loyalty bonus, or grant Pogba’s wish and open negotiations with Barcelona. The Spanish transfer deadline is not until the end of this month.
It’s understood that Pogba has agreed terms with the Catalan giants on a deal worth £89.5m over five years — a basic salary of £18m equivalent to £346,000 a week — through his agent Mino Raiola and that he has his heart set on a move to the Nou Camp.
Raiola declined to comment on the situation when contacted on Tuesday, saying: ‘I will never make declarations about Paul. You have to speak to Manchester United.’
It’s understood that Pogba wants to play in Spain with Lionel Messi and his old Juventus team-mate Arturo Vidal, who joined Barcelona last week.
He has become disillusioned with life at United under Mourinho after the relationship between the two men deteriorated rapidly last season.
Pogba is known to have been particularly upset that his manager did not take the opportunity to praise his World Cup success with France during United’s recent tour of the US, instead using it to make a veiled criticism of his attitude and commitment.
He has struggled to justify his transfer fee over the past two years but blames his restricted role in Mourinho’s side and the 55-year-old’s tactics for his patchy form. His superior performances in Russia as France won the World Cup were always going to be an awkward issue for Mourinho, but the situation has taken a dramatic twist since he returned to training at Carrington on Monday.
United are desperate not to lose their record signing so close to the start of the season, even though Mourinho privately confided in April that he would be prepared to sell Pogba this summer.
Indeed, the timing could not be worse after a dismal pre-season that has left Mourinho at odds with Woodward and the club.
United have reportedly rejected a low opening offer from Barcelona of £44.6m plus two players, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes.
They have an existing interest in Mina who is also a target for Everton as both clubs look to bring in a new centre back.
Everton still want Marcos Rojo, although United may have to give the Argentina defender a financial incentive to persuade him to agree to a £30m move.
United are still in talks with Bayern Munich over Jerome Boateng, but reports in Germany claim the player rang Mourinho to tell him he will not be moving to Manchester.
It remains to be seen if they stick to their guns on Pogba or entertain an improved bid that could involve other Barca stars being offered in exchange before Thursday’s deadline.