Manchester United could lose second teenage star, says agent
The agent of Manchester United's 18-year-old prodigy, Paul Pogba, has said that discussions over his future at the club are "precarious", amid suggestions that a row with Sir Alex Ferguson led to him being excluded from the squad to face Ajax at Old Trafford last week.
The French teenager was widely expected to feature against the Dutch champions and his omission, which surprised many at Old Trafford, came after he was forced to train with the reserves on the day of the game.
United did not comment yesterday on whether there had been a dispute with Ferguson, but with Juventus believed to be among a number of Italian clubs who have Pogba in their sights, agent Mino Raiola made it clear that contract discussions over the player are proving difficult. The chances of United this summer losing the player – arguably the brightest teenaged prospect at Old Trafford, following the talented Ravel Morrison's departure to West Ham – look increasingly high.
"It is a precarious situation," Raiola said. "It is difficult at the moment. Manchester United want him. It is up to the boy to make some decisions." Asked if there were uncertainties about whether his future lay at United, Raiola said: "Not from our side but that is a question to ask Mr Ferguson."
The club and player are some distance apart on wage demands and the fee that the French midfielder's agents may get for securing a new deal is also a likely point of contention. Ferguson is known to feel strongly that Pogba is at a stage of his development when he should not be demanding unrealistic money and the failure to agree a deal has put strains on their relationship.
On the teenager's absence from the squad to play Ajax, Raiola said: "It is never nice for the player not to be in the squad. It is the same for [Mario] Balotelli [whom Raiola also represents.] We must keep our minds cool and heads cool. Some things are good. Some things are not good [in this situation]."
With Milan also linked to Pogba, Raiola added: "We know there are some clubs interested in him. We must finish first with Manchester and after that we will see other options, if they are there. The club give the indication that they want to keep him and we are talking contract terms. There is willingness from both parties at the moment."
United were cleared by Fifa to sign the then 16-year-old from Le Havre in October 2009, following accusations of poaching by the French club. Ferguson publicly warned Pogba before Christmas not to wreck his United chances, after Raiola was engaged to work on the contract discussions.
"We have an option on his contract that takes us into a year-and-a-half away, so in that respect there's not a great emergency about it. But we'd like the boy to sign a contract and, if he'd like to be a Manchester United player, then he knows what to do," Ferguson said back then.