Manchester United have begun drawing up a list of potential replacements for Paul Pogba – despite being adamant the Frenchman will not leave this summer.
Ed Woodward is determined to reject any bid for the club’s record signing and is under no pressure to sell, with Pogba still having two years to run on his contract – and the option of a further 12 months.
But the 26-year-old is eager to leave Old Trafford and has publicly stated his desire to join Real Madrid.
Claims arising this week that controversial agent Mino Raiola, who represents Pogba, will have his ban on negotiating deals suspended, would remove one barrier to Pogba’s exit this summer.
While Woodward remains confident the player will be part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s revolution, he has begun identifying possible alternatives should Real succeed in their bid to lure him to the Bernabeu.
Christian Eriksen is seen as a top-class replacement, with United’s interest known before the Tottenham playmaker confirmed this week, he would like to “try something new.”
A move for Belgium international Youri Tielemans has also been sounded out after Solskjær was impressed by his impact while on loan at Leicester from Monaco last season.
The preferred option is to keep hold of Pogba, with Solskjær prepared to build his team around the World Cup winner.
United’s manager wants to bring in two more midfielders this summer to provide the £89m man with the platform to truly realise his potential.
Solskjær is also considering handing him the captain’s armband, following the departure of Antonio Valencia.
But much could depend on Pogba’s determination to link up with his countryman and idol Zinedine Zidane at Real.
Even then, it would also take a bid in the region of £130m for United’s resolve to be tested.
And Real’s ongoing interest in Eriksen may be evidence they doubt they will be able to convince United to sell.
United expressed interest in Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic amid concerns they’d lose Pogba last summer – but that has since cooled.
It’s also believed the player has little desire to move to England.
They are also big admirers of Sporting Lisbon midfielder Bruno Fernandes, along with Spurs, who may beat them to his signature. Christian Eriksen