Paul Pogba to Juventus and Paulo Dybala to Manchester United? ESPN’s Insider Notebook has the latest: PLUS: Lionel Messi waits for the new Barcelona president.
Jump to: Messi future depends on next Barca president | Liverpool’s Wijnaldum replacement | Moukoko gives hopes to Germany refugees | Real Madrid kids win 31-0, sparking fury | Tuchel under pressure as Pochettino, Allegri loom
Juve sweeten Pogba deal with Dybala, Bernardeschi
Juventus are keen to re-sign Pogba, after he left for United in a £89.3 million deal in 2016, following comments from agent Mino Raiola that the midfielder will not sign a new contract at Old Trafford. The contract will expire in 2022 — United have exercised their one-year extension option — when he will become a free agent. Rather than try to sign Pogba in January, Juventus are hoping to agree a deal with United next summer.
Sources told ESPN the Serie A champions are aware they are unlikely to be able to match United’s asking price having taken a financial hit because of the coronavirus pandemic and are exploring other options, including offering players in exchange.
United have been told via intermediaries that both Dybala and Bernardeschi would be made available if Pogba, 27, was allowed to move in the other direction. Dybala came close to moving to Old Trafford in 2019 but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pulled out of the deal over concerns the striker did not want to leave Juventus. Dybala’s future at Juve has since become unclear, though, and the 27-year-old hit out at claims he had been in talks over a contract extension after he scored his first Serie A goal of the season last week against Genoa.
“My agent was in Turin for a long time and was never called by the club. It disappoints me to hear talk of invested financial figures,” Dybala told Sky Italia after the game.
“It would be better if the truth could be told, because talking about those aspects in this period pits the fans against me.”
Whether Dybala would now be open to a move to United is the question, while there is a compelling argument for a Pogba-Cristiano Ronaldo swap deal that would see both players return to their former clubs.
Sources told ESPN that United are determined they will not be bullied into accepting a low bid for Pogba despite Raiola’s insistence that he will move, either at the end of his contract or next summer. — Rob Dawson
Messi’s future depends on Barcelona’s president
Lionel Messi’s Barcelona future and the club’s transfer business in on hold until Jan. 24 at the earliest as the club waits to elect a new president following the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu in October.
– Barca, Messi and a napkin: Oral history of transfer, 20 years ago
Messi is waiting to listen to the club’s next president — there are nine men in the race, including Joan Laporta and Victor Font — before deciding on his long-term future at Camp Nou, having told the club he wanted to leave last summer. This season, Messi has said he is fed up with being blamed for Barcelona’s problems after Antoine Griezmann’s former agent accused him of running a “regime of terror” at the club. Font has said he will be able to convince Messi to stay if he wins the election.
Meanwhile, sporting director Ramon Planes is working on deals ahead of the January window but he is unable to sign off on any of them with the presidency in a state of flux at the club. All his work could be in vain if the incoming president and his chosen sporting director decide to pursue other options. The new president is likely to arrive with his own ideas and may opt not to make use of the work done by Planes to line up potential signings and to secure players to longer deals.
The lack of a president means coach Ronald Koeman remains safe despite Barca’s poor start to the season. They have already lost four times in La Liga and defeat to Juventus last week condemned them to second place in their Champions League group and a round-of-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
With no president and no executive board in place, there is no-one with the authority to sack Koeman in the event results and performances do not improve over the festive period.
Resolving Messi’s situation is high on the list for whoever takes the presidency, and there is also the small matter of negotiating the transfer window. Koeman would like Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Lyon attacker Memphis Depay, who are both out of contract next summer. Planes is also looking at low-cost options as alternatives to Garcia and has watched Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, too. Negotiations have also begun with Ousmane Dembele over a new deal, with his contract expiring in 2022. — Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens
Victor Font believes he will be able to convince Lionel Messi to stay if he wins the presidential election.
Liverpool track Bissouma as Wijnaldum replacement
Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma is being closely followed by Liverpool ahead of the January transfer window, sources told ESPN, with manager Jurgen Klopp tracking him as a potential replacement for Georginio Wijnaldum, who is out of contract in the summer.
Bissouma, at 24 and with a likely value of around £30m, fits the profile of potential players that Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards and the club’s recruitment team are interested in.
Liverpool won’t be the only club after him, though, as sources said Monaco and Manchester United are also keeping tabs on the former Ligue 1 star, as well as two Spanish clubs. Brighton are expecting to receive offers for him, possibly next month in the transfer window, and will face a battle to persuade him to stay.
Bissouma, who joined Brighton from Lille in the summer of 2018 for around £15m, has raised his game massively this season. Some of his statistics so far this term are pretty much on par with Wijnaldum, who looks likely to leave Liverpool in the summer as his contract expires, with Barcelona hoping to sign him.
According to statistics provided by Opta, Bissouma has clocked up 1,061 minutes to Wijnaldum’s 1,081 in the league this season. The Brighton midfielder has created three chances to the Liverpool man’s six, while making 40 tackles (Wijnaldum has made 11) as well as winning 73 of his 153 duels contested compared to Wijnaldum’s 35 from 64 contested. Bissouma’s 86% pass completion rate also stands up to Wijnaldum’s 92%
With Wijnaldum’s future still unresolved, Liverpool are giving thought to making a move for Bissouma before other clubs firm up their interest. — Julien Laurens
Ed Dove and Colin Udoh look back on Gerard Houllier’s life after the former PSG and Liverpool manager’s death.
Moukoko rise gives hope to Germany refugees
“He’s living the dream of rising above structures. It’s a from-rags-to-riches story for the youth arriving here in Germany. If someone makes it, it does something to the others,” Janina Meyeringh of refugee aid organisation Xenion told ESPN.
Having followed his Hamburg-based father to Germany at the age of 10, Cameroon-born Moukoko’s story resonates with the community of unaccompanied minors arriving in Germany from African countries.
“Football is a big thing among them and Moukoko has become an icebreaker to get into conversation with them,” Meyeringh, a psychologist offering help to the minors, said.
Football has become a haven for those coming to Germany. It’s in the clubs they can make the first steps in the community and it’s here they can build up their confidence. And while dreams of a career in football usually remain unfulfilled, players like Moukoko or Bayern Munich‘s Alphonso Davies are an invaluable help for the likes of Pablo from Gambia. Pablo arrived in Germany in 2017 “with nothing more than me and my head and that was a lot to carry already,” he told ESPN.
He started playing football just two weeks after arriving in Berlin, first in a park and then with a local amateur side. A Manchester United fan, Pablo started following the rise of Bayern’s Davies, who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana before he moved to Canada at the age of five.
“He’s got a similar background. He had to leave his country and he made it to the top. To see all of that is huge inspiration for us who also had to leave their country,” Pablo said.
But soon he also heard about Moukoko. “My friends told me about this young Black player at Dortmund, who could not stop scoring goals,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it at first, but then I saw it myself. He scored. In every game. Sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes four goals. I started following him on Instagram. It’s just impressive.”
And while Pablo has left football behind after he was subjected to racism where people “reminded me of my colour of skin,” he continues to follow the Bundesliga stars and he is working on becoming a mechanic.
“I am so delighted that Moukoko made it. It feels like one of us has made it,” he said. — Stephan Uersfeld
Jan Aage Fjortoft says the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever player, Youssoufa Moukoko, is at the right club with Dortmund.
Madrid kids win 31-0, prompting youth football review
Football bosses in Madrid are planning to change the youth football set-up in the region to avoid a repeat of a 31-0 hammering handed out by Real Madrid‘s under-10s last weekend.
Beaten Villaverde San Andres — from the south of the city — hit out at the result, expressing their “indignation” and saying: “Big clubs should use sporting strategies to avoid these thrashings.” The club’s president, Juan Antonio Cozar, said that his grandson had featured for the losing side.
Real Madrid did not mention the game’s scoreline in their weekly round-up of youth fixtures on the club’s website, simply saying the team “won on their league debut.”
The result was even put to Zinedine Zidane at a news conference on Monday.
“Unfortunately, it can happen,” he said. “It’s not down to the coach to tell the players not to attack. It’s something for the federation to look at.”
Various solutions have been proposed, including making the youth teams of big clubs such as Real and Atletico Madrid face older age groups from smaller local rivals. Zidane suggested a youth basketball-style approach, where games are ended when a 50-point margin is reached.
The Madrid Football Federation (RFFM) said a restructuring of youth football has already been approved but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to create groups above each category, where the best teams will play each other,” Jose Luis Polo, RFFM sporting vice-president, said. “That way it will be more even.” — Alex Kirkland
Ale Moreno believes Karim Benzema doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves for his Madrid career.
Tuchel under pressure at PSG with Pochettino, Allegri in frame
Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino are the main contenders to take over from Thomas Tuchel, with sources telling ESPN the PSG boss is under mounting pressure ahead of this weekend’s crucial Ligue 1 encounter at league leaders Lille.
– Hunter: Neymar can lure Messi to PSG
Both managers are out of work since leaving Juventus and Tottenham respectively and have been linked with Europe’s top jobs. Pochettino has long-standing interest from a number of clubs, including Manchester United, and Allegri has also been tracked by Premier League clubs since his Juve exit in 2019.
PSG have endured a difficult campaign so far, sitting second in Ligue 1 as well as suffering two defeats in their Champions League group, as they made hard work of reaching the round of 16 and a clash with Barcelona. Tuchel’s men have lost at home to Marseille for the first time in 13 years this term, and at Lyon for the first time in 14 years. Their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the Champions League was also their first loss at the Parc des Princes in the group stage since they were taken over by Qatar Sports Investments 11 years ago.
While PSG beat Lorient 2-0 in midweek, sources said Tuchel has not performed well enough so far this season, with a lack of identity in his team and over-reliance on Neymar and Kylian Mbappe one of the key issues to resolve. The PSG boss’ contract in Paris expires in the summer and he will not be offered a new deal, sources said.
Sources added that Allegri is close to PSG sporting director Leonardo, while Pochettino is highly thought of in Paris not only for his coaching career so far, but for his time as captain of PSG in his playing days from 2001-03. — Julien Laurens