Inter Milan are moving increasingly closer to favourites to sign Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, with his salary demands the only potential stumbling block to the transfer.
Both Real Madrid and Juventus, both long-term pursuers of the Frenchman, have almost certainly ruled themselves out of a move for him this summer, but whilst others are fading, Inter are coming up on the rails with a strong late run.
Pogba’s preferred destination remains Madrid, but Inter have a significant ace up their sleeve in head coach Antonio Conte, who gave Pogba his break at Juventus when he left United in 2012.
And Italian outfit Gazzetta dello Sport are not slow to note the special bond the two men developed during the two years up until Conte left Turin to coach the national side.
‘From day zero of Paul’s arrival to Antonio’s surprise resignation: in two years together with Juventus, Pogba and Conte “connected” a lot’ Gazzetta’s Carlo Angioni writes.
‘When they met the Frenchman was a boy who had escaped from the clutches of the orc Ferguson and the coach was a man who has just brought Juve back to the top of the Serie A after a fantastic ride.’
‘In a few months in Turin a dream match was born and Paul, thanks to Conte’s teachings and secrets, became a top player.’
‘Conte knows very well what the Octopus is able to give. And it is also thanks to his teachings.’
‘Paul arrived to join the reserves, but Antonio slowly realized that he could no longer wait: he is ready to become king.’
The report goes on to say that Pogba’s salary demands makes the Frenchman ‘almost unattainable’. But Inter are arguably in a stronger position than Juventus in that regard; the Turin side are committed to absorbing Cristiano Ronaldo’s £27 million per year wage and can ill afford to add Pogba’s £15 million to the accounts. Inter’s entire wage bill, on the other hand, is around £47 million – four of which is their share of the wages of Alexis Sanchez, who will return to Old Trafford at the end of this season.
Another advantage Inter are likely to have in negotiations is that they are widely expected to sell Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez this summer, with Barcelona favourites for his signature. Martinez’s release clause stands at almost exactly £100 million and this would be more than enough to sign Pogba.
Juve, by contrast, have no players to sell at that kind of value to raise funds for the 27-year-old and have instead been scrapping around trying to offer second-rate swap deals that are unlikely to interest the Red Devils.
From Pogba’s perspective, in addition to being reunited with Conte he would also be linking back up with old friend Romelu Lukaku and former teammate Ashley Young, providing him with some familiar faces and continuity at the San Siro.
If the Nerazzurri were able to pull off a deal for ‘the Octopus’, not only would they be getting one of the world’s top midfielders but they would also be scooping their rivals’ biggest target from right under their nose. There are, therefore, plenty of reasons why the catwalks of Milan could be the most likely destination for the fashion-loving Frenchman.
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