Ndombele, Lo Celso, Rabiot, Longstaff? - Man Utd's possible Pogba replacements
Paul Pogba finally confirmed his desire to leave Manchester United for a "new challenge" on Sunday, a revelation that will likely split the club's supporters.
While few would doubt Pogba's ability, the last three seasons since his return from Juventus have been anything but smooth.
Pogba has struggled for consistency in a United team that has so often been crying out for his creativity, while the soap opera around his turbulent relationship with Jose Mourinho before the Portuguese manager's December sacking became a distracting sideshow.
Although Pogba's form did initially improve after Mourinho left, the dominant performances soon dried up again – a haul of 13 goals (seven from the spot) and nine assists in the Premier League exaggerating his influence.
Sunday's comments about desiring a move will not have surprised many given the speculation surrounding him, but offloading Pogba might prove a blessing in disguise for a United side in need of a rebuild. We have identified some potential replacements.
Sean Longstaff - Newcastle United
Magpies midfielder Longstaff has only made nine Premier League appearances, but he impressed to such a degree he is being linked with a £25million move to United. Poised in possession with a maturity that belies his 21 years, Longstaff looks to have a very bright future but it would be asking a lot of him to replace one of the best midfielders in the world.
Tanguy Ndombele - Lyon
Ndombele is reportedly a target for Tottenham, who he has described as "a great team, a great club", though he could be a good fit at Old Trafford too. The France midfielder impressed in the Champions League last term but Lyon's outspoken president Jean-Michel Aulas is known among the hardest negotiators in the game. The Ligue 1 side are said to be demanding £70m for the 22-year-old.
Bruno Fernandes - Sporting CP
Nations League winner Fernandes is expected to leave Sporting this year, but United would surely face a battle for his signature, as Manchester City, Inter, Tottenham, Liverpool and Juventus are all said to be keen. Fernandes hit 20 league goals for Sporting, who missed out on Champions League qualification and will likely have to cash in on the versatile 24-year-old as a result. He is reportedly valued at £70m.
Youri Tielemans - Monaco
Tielemans impressed on loan at Leicester City last term and, although the Foxes may wish to do a deal with Monaco to sign him permanently, they could be blown out of the water by offers from richer sides. Tielemans, said to be valued at £40m by the Ligue 1 club, has been linked with United, but speculation has also suggested they have moved on to other targets.
Adrien Rabiot - PSG
A risk-reward signing if ever there was one, Rabiot is available on a free transfer as his contract is expiring this year at Paris Saint-Germain. But the 24-year-old has a reputation as a difficult character, having been shunted aside at PSG over a contract dispute, while he rejected the invitation to be on the standby list for Didier Deschamps' France squad at the 2018 World Cup. The undoubtedly talented Rabiot is said to be in huge demand, with Juventus rumoured to be interested in a player Gianluigi Buffon has described as a combination of Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.
Giovani Lo Celso - Real Betis
Versatility makes Giovani Lo Celso an appealing option, with the Argentina midfielder able to operate in front of defence or in a more attacking role. He scored nine LaLiga goals for Real Betis last season and the club can expect to make a significant profit on a player they signed from PSG for €25m only two months ago. Should Lo Celso impress at the Copa America, demand in a player linked with Tottenham could increase.