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Mino Raiola is overplaying his hand with Paul Pogba

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The notorious “super agent” is trying to get Pogba out of Manchester United

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FRANCE-GUINEA-FBL-FRA-GUI-CHARITY Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP via Getty Images

Mino Raiola is determined to get Paul Pogba out of Manchester United. The Frenchman’s agent spoke up — again — this week prior to United’s match against Chelsea, this time taking shots at manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in response to the United boss saying “Paul is our player, not Mino’s.”

“Paul is not mine and for sure not Solskjaer’s property, Paul is Paul Pogba’s (property),” Raiola said, responding to Solskjaer.

“You cannot own a human being already for a long time in the UK or anywhere else. I hope Solskjaer do(es) not want to suggest that Paul is his prisoner.”

Raiola has been chirping almost non-stop since late December. He’s taken shots at the structure of United, he’s insinuated that Pogba could be on his way back to Juventus, and now this.

It’s clear he’s trying to orchestrate a move for his client to Real Madrid, but now this is getting excessive. Raiola is acting desperate.

He’s desperate because it’s not easy to sell Paul Pogba. There needs to be a buyer. But not just any buyer. There needs to be a buyer who can: 1. afford to pay Manchester United a transfer fee, 2. pay Pogba’s astronomically high wages, and 3. also pay Raiola his hefty commission on the deal.

That’s the crux of this matter. When Raiola moved Pogba to Manchester United for a then world record £89 million fee, according to the book Done Deal by Daniel Geey, Raiola himself collected a £40 million fee from the club.

If it was always Raiola’s plan to move Pogba again three years after joining United, it would seem to be part of a pattern: Move a promising client for significant money in his early 20s, then orchestrate a real big money move in the player’s mid 20s. If the reports about a buyout clause are to be believed, some would say that it’s exactly what he’s doing with Erling Haaland.

But that second deal isn’t coming. No one is lining up to buy Pogba, and Raiola is getting desperate, as without a buyer, his plan goes up in flames.

“I am a free citizen who can think and express my thoughts. Until now I was maybe nice to him. Solskjaer should just remember things that he said in the summer to Paul.”

I don’t know what Solskjaer said to Pogba last summer, but here’s what I do know. Selling Paul Pogba is not easy. In fact, it may be one of the most difficult player transactions in the world. There are just so many moving parts.

At this point, United need to sell Pogba. I wrote as much last summer. Fans are trying to run him out of town. He gets criticized and blamed whether he’s playing or not, and it’s never going to improve.

Up until this season I never thought Pogba was unhappy at Manchester United. Yes, if Real Madrid came calling he’d want to move there, because they have the glitz and the glamour. The weather in Madrid is nicer, the food is better, and it’s the opportunity to play for his countryman and idol Zinedine Zidane.

This year when you look at the team surrounding Pogba and how far they still have to go, you can see why he may want out. He’s a World Cup winner, a four time Scudetto winner, and he’s played in a Champions League Final. It’s understandable that he doesn’t want to waste his prime wallowing away on this team.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that easy.

Since Pogba came back to United, the transfer market has drastically changed. That change came thanks to the €222 million deal that saw Neymar move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain. Suddenly Coutinho was worth €120 million and the relatively unproven Ousmane Dembele €105 million (both deals featured up to €40 million in add-ons).

Yes, part of the reason those players fetched such high fees is because the selling teams knew Barcelona was sitting on a pile of cash. But it trickles down. Southampton knew Liverpool were sitting on the Coutinho money and suddenly Virgil Van Dijk is going for £75 million. That sets the market for defenders, so that when United need Harry Maguire, the rate is now £80 million.

The entire market is completely inflated.

In 2009, roughly £100 million was good enough to land you the 24-year-old reigning Ballon d’Or winner. That’s £100 million for the entire package, transfer fee, agents fee, and player wages. In 2020, that’s not even enough money to cover the transfer fee for a James Maddison.

Money just doesn’t get you as far as it used to.

We’re also living in a Financial Fair Play world, and considering how UEFA just punished Manchester City for violating FFP laws, teams are doing their best to stay compliant. Clubs that traditionally have had all of the money, no longer have as much as you think. Specifically, Real Madrid.

At the start of the decade no name or amount of money was too big for Los Blancos. Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Mesut Özil, Ángel Dí Maria, Luka Modrić, Gareth Bale. Madrid spared no expense to assemble their squad. But in the latter half of the decade, their spending has been significantly different.

A few things pop out here. Firstly, that’s not a crazy amount of spending, especially for a team that’s synonymous with recklessly spending money. In the five years listed, their net spend was only €273.60 million (over the same five year period United’s net spend was £324.66 million).

The second is that there are only two years where they spent over €100 million, and they both happened to follow years where they brought in significant amounts of money.

Why does this matter? Because it had a direct impact in Real’s ability, or inability to land Paul Pogba.

In July of 2018, Real landed €117 million for Cristiano Ronaldo. In football, the fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30th. Last summer Real reacted quickly by making five signings, including the €100 million Eden Hazard, all in the month of June. By doing that, the transfer fees could all count towards their 2018/19 books and be offset by the Ronaldo money. It’s a quick little FFP trick.

With all that done, it left Madrid with no money to go after Pogba. That was confirmed when Real offered £27.4 million plus James Rodriguez to United last summer. Whether they had the money or not, they couldn’t afford Pogba unless they were able to clear James’ and Gareth Bale’s £600,000/wk wages off their books.

Real still are one of the biggest and most profitable clubs in the world, but the way that money has to be spread out among so many different areas, they find themselves restricted in the market.

Madrid are also a smart club. They realize that spending over €100 million on a 27-year-old may not be the best idea. Especially after spending €100 million on the 28-year-old Hazard last season and seeing how that’s played out thus far.

Instead, their sights are set on Kylian Mbappe, a 21-year-old who can carry them for the next decade. He’ll probably fetch somewhere around €200 million, but he’s worth it. If they spend that and fail to move Bale and James’ wages, they won’t have the money for Pogba.

Real aren’t the only team to realize this. In fact, they’re one of the last teams to realize it. That’s been the noticeable shift in the market. Clubs are no longer willing to bail out other clubs from bad contracts.

Christian Eriksen failed to gain the big money move Tottenham were hoping for last year. Mauricio Pochettino spent two years trying to offload Toby Alderweireld but no bids came in. Bayern tried to sell Jerome Boateng in 2018 but couldn’t find a buyer. Teams have realized it’s not smart to pay a big transfer fee plus agent fees plus wages for older players, especially if those players will be out of contract soon.

Take a look at the most expensive transfers from last summer.

Ten of the 14 highest transfers were players aged 25 or younger. Only two (Antoine Griezmann and Hazard) were over the age of 27, and both those deals had been about a year in the making. Not for nothing, but both those deals are also not off to the best of starts in year one.

And thus, Mino is panicking. His plan when he originally moved Pogba to United is crumbling before his eyes.

Last week Fabrizio Romano reported that neither Real or Juventus will be willing to pay the €100 million price United are asking for Pogba. As such, that’s left Mino ranting and raving like a mad man in desperate hopes of getting United to lower their asking price.

That leaves United in a bit of a pickle. As mentioned earlier, they basically need to sell Pogba for the benefit of all parties. That’s not something they’re opposed to doing. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed off on selling him last summer, provided United had lined up a replacement, but no acceptable bid ever came.

United can’t bend on their asking price. Pogba is their most marketable player at the peak of his career. No matter how much Mino yells, they can’t let a player and agent bully them in to selling someone for a cut price. After all, they need the money generated from his sale to sign his replacements, and the teams that they’re dealing with aren’t going to lower their asking price just because United lowered theirs.

That’s where things stand right now. It’s no secret that Pogba wants to leave United and United want to get rid of him. They need a buyer and there just doesn’t seem to be one. That’s what happens when the market shifts.

Mino has realized that and he’s trying every trick out there to force something through. Unfortunately for him, there isn’t much he can do.

He’s desperate, and he’s now overplayed his hand. It’s very possible that no one is coming to rescue Pogba from Manchester United, and that’s a scenario that both sides have to prepare for.