Six years on from his world-record return, Paul Pogba is set to leave Manchester United this summer as a free agent.
The Frenchman was re-signed from Juventus for £89m in 2016, the marquee arrival of a summer that promised to at last kickstart United out of their post-Sir Alex Ferguson stasis.
But, 226 appearances and 39 goals later, any success has been moderate — a League Cup, a Europa League and a second-place domestic finish — and the unquestionably gifted midfielder’s peak form has been glimpsed only fleetingly.
So as Pogba, who is now 29, looks for his next destination, here are five potential suitors who could tap into his latent potential.
French champions Paris Saint-Germain are the most obvious fit for Pogba’s next club.
PSG are always on the hunt for star names to add to their squad, and with Kylian Mbappe’s future not yet resolved, the addition of another World Cup-winning Frenchman would be a PR boon if nothing else.
On the pitch, Pogba would benefit from PSG’s relatively comfortable standing atop the French-football food chain. The inconsistency that has so frustrated United fans over the last six years could more easily by absorbed within a squad that enjoys a talent disparity over the rest or Ligue 1, while Pogba’s propensity for flashes of brilliance could finally push PSG over their Champions League hump.
From almost the moment he left Turin to return to United, Pogba has been linked with a move back to Juventus, and the midfielder appears to have maintained an affection for the Old Lady, too.
The potential cost of any deal was previously thought to be prohibitive to the Italian side, but that is no longer the case now the player is available for no transfer fee.
Pogba was only 23 when he left Juventus, but his four-year spell in Serie A remains the most successful and consistently high-performing of his club career.
With Juve having slipped from the Serie A summit in recent years, perhaps Pogba — who won four Scudetti with the club between 2012 and 2016 — can get them back there.
Manchester City were a surprise name added to the Pogba sweepstakes in recent weeks when reports claimed United’s neighbours were weighing up a move reminiscent of when they signed Carlos Tevez after his Old Trafford spell in 2009.
Fresh reports have distanced City from an interest in Pogba, with Pep Guardiola’s side having confirmed the forthcoming addition of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland as their summer blockbuster buy.
But the idea of Pogba in a Pep midfield remains and intriguing one. City are already well-stocked in that area, but if anyone can unlock the Frenchman’s potential, it’s Guardiola.
Paul Pogba is among a list of candidates #ManCity have identified for the role in midfield that Pep Guardiola wants filled this summer.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) May 6, 2022
For much of his second spell with United, Pogba has been a rumoured object of Real Madrid’s desire, and there has long been a feeling that the Frenchmen fancied a move to the Bernabeu.
Such murmurs were most persistent when Pogba’s compatriot Zinedine Zidane was at the helm in the Spanish capital, but there is logic to Madrid, where Carlo Ancelotti is now in charge, swooping at last for the 29-year-old.
Madrid have enjoyed a stellar season under Ancelotti, having already wrapped up the league title and with a Champions League final date set with Liverpool.
But star midfielders Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric are all the wrong side of 30. Modric in particular, still so vital to Los Blancos as creator and tempo-setter, is in the twilight of his playing days at 36.
Adding a player of Pogba’s quality and experience could extent Madrid’s era of success with little need for a bumpy transition.
The Blues might be something of a left-field suggestion, but a move for Pogba this summer would make a lot of sense.
Chelsea were listed among Pogba’s keenest suitors before his £89m move to United in 2016, and there could be no smarter way for the club’s new owners to make a big-name, headline-grabbing addition without breaking the bank than rekindling an interest in the former Juventus man.
What’s more, a Stamford Bridge switch would pair Pogba with N’Golo Kante, the national-team colleague alongside whom he won the World Cup in 2018.