It continues to appear simply a matter of time before Manchester United officially welcome Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford. Despite strong reports out of France earlier in the week that a record-breaking 100 million pounds ($131 million) transfer had been agreed between United and Juventus confirmation of a deal has not yet been forthcoming.
On Thursday, Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, who has already brokered the deals that brought Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Old Trafford this summer, attempted to cool the speculation. The Italian tweeted: “There is no deal done regarding Paul Pogba, lots of bla bla bla.”
Yet manager Jose Mourinho has strongly suggested that he hopes Pogba will soon be a Manchester United player. “You have smoke, you have fire,” he said, while in China for friendlies against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City. “I am not going to try to make you naive and believe that we are not trying for one player.”
Mourinho has already got three of the players he wanted this summer, in Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and defender Eric Bailly. And he has reaffirmed that only one target now remains.
"We set four targets for us, we got three of them and we are going to get the fourth,” he added.
Mourinho did also suggest, however, that there were a couple of fallback options in mind should a transfer for Pogba not materialize. Both Moussa Sissoko and Nemanja Matic have been linked, with Sissoko the more similar of the two in style to Pogba.
However, two other midfielders have been linked with transfers to Old Trafford in recent days. One of those is Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic, whose future has suddenly come into question following Barcelona's surprise signing of Portugal midfielder Andre Gomes on Thursday.
Shortly after the deal was confirmed, a man reported as Rakitic's agent, Miguel Sors, tweeted: “I think it's time to go.”
Creo que es hora de irse...
— ⚽️ M.S ⚽️ (@MiquelSors) July 22, 2016
Sors later played down the comment, before Rakitic himself tweeted, stating that Sors wasn't his agent at all. It would be a major surprise were Rakitic, who has been a key part of the Barcelona team since joining from Sevilla two years ago, to be allowed to move on.
— Ivan Rakitic (@ivanrakitic) July 22, 2016
It appears another target from Spain can also be ruled out. Manchester United has been among a number of top clubs linked with James Rodriguez this summer after the Colombian midfielder found himself out of the first XI for much of last season at the Bernabeu.
Just this week, Spanish publication El Confidencial claimed that Manchester United's executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward had met with James' agent and was set to table an offer of 65 million euros ($71 million). Yet there is now a strong feeling in Spain that Real Madrid intend to keep hold of the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner. And James has also spoken of his intention to stay at the Bernabeu, even though an offer of 85 million euros ($93 million) arrived for his services.
“I will fight to earn my place,” he told Spanish daily Marca. “That's my dream. I will stay at Real Madrid, I will succeed here“I know that the club received an €85 million bid for me, but I' m not leaving.