Having scored a cracker against Croatia, stuffed the World Cup trophy in his back pocket and waltzed off to dab with the French president, Paul Pogba has remembered what it was he was so good at doing before he played for Manchester United. Yes, having fun! He’s had a right laugh in Russia and isn’t keen on being given a dustpan and brush and instructions by José Mourinho to keep the midfield tidy when he gets back to Old Trafford.
And reports in Spain suggest that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, has told Barcelona that they can have the midfielder if they like because he doesn’t want another joyless season in the Premier League. Poor Pogs! But Barça know the score when Raiola comes calling. They would have to sell the family jewels to afford Raiola’s fees – as well as Pogba – and unless they can do that they are likely to buy a mid-market model such as PSG’s Adrien Rabiot or Sevilla’s Steven Nzonzi.
Barça will have to try and rustle up some cash to sign a midfielder, though. With Andrés Iniesta and Paulinho having both swapped Catalonia for east Asia, and Arsenal target André Gomes deemed unworthy of travelling on a pre-season tour, the Camp Nou middle-ground might be barer than a scorched London lawn next season. Another midfielder who may be available at a bargain price is Mousa Dembélé. Internazionale believe they can gobble up the Spurs schemer for just £15m because he has only a year left on his contract, but Dembélé is playing it cool and is open to offers.
After watching Loris Karius use Liverpool’s pre-season so far to display a new and varied array of goalkeeping clangers, Jürgen Klopp has fired an offer the way of Barcelona for their Dutch keeper Jasper Cillessen.
The shambolic state of Milan’s ownership structure and an outstanding FFP bill may lead to a couple of the club’s shiniest stars being flogged to whoever can stump up the cash quickest. Mourinho has been casting lubricious looks in the direction of Leonardo Bonucci for quite some time and will instruct Manchester United bank clerks to fling £30m in the direction of San Siro for him, while Chelsea will get in some early practise for transfer deadline day by trying to snaffle playmaker Suso for around £34m, the rumoured value of his buyout clause which is set to expire at midnight on Monday.
Suso’s potential arrival would be extremely timely if Eden Hazard continues to talk his way into a £200m move to Real Madrid to replace Cristiano Ronaldo. And if Hazard does go on one of his mazy dribbles all the way to the Spanish capital, Maurizio Sarri would have no qualms about telling the club to splash out a big chunk of the money they get for him on Lazio’s central midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Kalidou Koulibaly, the centre-back who was so impressive under Sarri at Napoli. Mind you, they want £80m for the Senegal international – but if Chelsea lose Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid too, they may need to fortify the Stamford Bridge defence no matter the hefty price.
Like a toddler who has just popped their first Haribo, Arsenal are already hooked on Uruguay midfielders. Having just signed Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria, they now hope to complete a move for Rodrigo Bentancur, who may struggle to get a game at Juventus now that Emre Can has thundered into the midfield mix there. And yes, that is the sound of Granit Xhaka speed-dialling his agent.
Oh, and Everton and Bournemouth have got the bug too. They are going to duke it out for 25-year-old Genoa and Uruguay midfielder Diego Laxalt because, well, they want to stay on trend. One man who won’t be going to Goodison Park is Luke Shaw. For some reason that The Mill can’t fathom, he’d rather continue to be Mourinho’s lightning rod than tread the well-worn path from Old Trafford to Everton.