Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has declared that Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains a 'leader' at the club despite his release as a result of injury at the end of June. The Swede continues to be part of the picture, though, and is widely expected to re-sign when fit.
In addition to what Jose Mourinho has said on the matter in recent weeks, Pogba's new 'in the team' comments have only served to heighten the speculation that Zlatan will be back in a red shirt at some point in 2017/18.
New signing Romelu Lukaku also even admitted to asking permission from Ibrahimovic to have the number nine shirt the 35-year-old wore last season.
"Obviously Zlatan is a leader, always a big leader, and he's a big leader because he's still in the team. Even though he's not playing he's a leader outside of the pitch," Pogba is quoted as saying by Sky News on United's soon-to-finish tour of America.
Ibrahimovic suffered a serious knee injury during a Europa League clash with Anderlecht in April that ended his 28-goal season early. He underwent surgery in early May and was invited by the club to carry out his rehab at their Carrington facilities - he is already making strong progress.
It is also thought that he has rebuffed offers to make the switch to Major League Soccer.
Even if Ibrahimovic doesn't actually re-sign, his influence can still be huge - this writer recently highlighted the potential behind the scenes impact he could have on Lukaku - and Pogba will certainly hope to learn a thing or two about being a leader as he matures.
"I've been playing for one season, I came here to hopefully be a leader in the team. That's not the objective but that's how you should be. I've been here, we won, and you want to grow up as a player and a leader as well," the Frenchman said.
"I can learn from [Zlatan], from [Michael] Carrick, all the other players and become a leader."
Carrick was named captain in the wake of Wayne Rooney's departure to Everton, but Pogba has occasionally worn the armband during pre-season when the veteran midfielder hasn't been on the pitch, as has Antonio Valencia.
With Carrick unlikely to play a huge on-field role this season at the age of 36, it could well be that Pogba is being readied to take on the captaincy in the near future.