Manchester United have moved into pole position to lure Paul Pogba back to the Premier League with Pep Guardiola ruling out an attempt to attract the Juventus midfielder to Manchester City.
Pogba, 23, is Jose Mourinho’s priority midfield target with the Portuguese determined to build a title-winning team at Old Trafford following his appointment as United manager last month.
And although the France international is understood to favour a move to La Liga should he leave Juventus this summer, United believe they can persuade the player to return to the club – four years after Sir Alex Ferguson allowed the youngster to leave for Turin on a free transfer.
Ferguson refused to sanction a lucrative contract for Pogba, then 19, in order to keep the player at Old Trafford, with the former United manager criticising agent Mino Raiola after urging Pogba not to ‘chase money’ at the stage of his career.
But with Pogba since becoming one of Europe’s most sought-after players with Juventus, winning the Serie A title in each of his four seasons at the club, Mourinho wants United to move swiftly to negotiate a deal with the Italian champions, who value the Frenchman at €100m (£78.1m).
City had been keen to sign Pogba last summer before abandoning their efforts due to the prohibitive cost of the player’s transfer fee and £200,000-a-week wage demands.
And while the club’s Abu Dhabi owners are prepared to back Guardiola with substantial funds to sign any of the new manager’s targets, the Spaniard has made it clear that he is prepared to pursue other options than Pogba.
Guardiola has already completed the signing of Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan from Borussia Dortmund, with City also in talks to sign striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from last season’s Bundesliga runners-up.
With City out of the running to sign Pogba, however, United now appear to have a clear run domestically in their attempts to thrash out a deal for the player.
Financial constraints at Barcelona have ensured that the Spanish champions would have to sell a leading player to fund a major summer spending spree, and although Real Madrid remain interested in Pogba, the presence of Mourinho at United could yet tip the race in Old Trafford’s favour.
Mourinho attempted to take Pogba to Chelsea last summer before ultimately failing to secure a late deal for the player.
And although it would signal an embarrassing, and expensive, U-turn by United if they were to re-sign Pogba, the club are prepared to break the British transfer record to tempt Juventus into selling the player.
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