Manchester United stand accused of signing star midfielder Paul Pogba for commercial rather than football reasons, with the Frenchman seemingly not brought back to Old Trafford because manager Jose Mourinho had asked for it. At least, that's the claim from a long-term Mourinho associate.
United completed a world record transfer when Pogba returned to England for £89m in the summer of 2016, yet the former Juventus player has struggled for consistency and has even had alleged fall outs with the boss at various times over his attitude and patchy form.
Eladio Parames, a long time friend and former spokesman/adviser to Mourinho, has suggested that '...sometimes there are reasons beyond sports that lead the clubs, and not always the coaches, to gamble on hiring them'. It hints that United officials saw a commercial opportunity on bringing Pogba back to Old Trafford.
What's more, Parames claims that United rejected Mourinho's transfer pleas last summer for a specific type of player to be brought in to get the best out of Pogba.
In comments for Portuguese publication Record, published in English by The Sun, Parames explained, "Pogba, for example, is worth a lot in the advertising market, so much so that in just six months Manchester United had already recovered what they had invested in him.
"However, without 'terriers' like Matuidi and Kante at his side, he is worth virtually nothing on the field. Man United did not give Mourinho 'terriers' despite advice given to Woodward last summer.
"And Mourinho had to watch as Pogba became the player who most often lost the ball and was dispossessed, in a single game, in all Premier League matches this season. A great record!"
Parames even compared Pogba to Mario Balotelli, a notoriously difficult player to get the best out of despite his innate talent. Mourinho worked with the Italian striker at Inter.
"It's no coincidence that both have already been severely criticised by several coaches," he said.
"Of course some will ask whether the person who hired them did not know what their personalities were like," Parames continued, even pointing to the fact that both players are famously represented by super agent Mino Raiola, a man who, in the words of Parames, 'attaches little importance to the sporting behaviour of the players'.
A friendly reminder to those attacking Paul Pogba’s ability as a player:— United Xtra (@utdxtra) December 9, 2018
4x Serie A
2x Copa Italia
3x Serie A team of the season
FIFA World XI
UEL player of the season
Scored in a World Cup final
Played in a UCL & Euro final
He’s 25. #mufc pic.twitter.com/l3kNZXnWVA
The aforementioned 2-2 draw against Southampton in which Pogba was regularly dispossessed, allegedly leading Mourinho to label the World Cup winner a 'virus' in the dressing room afterwards, resulted in the Frenchman being dropped.
According to The Guardian, the two omissions have come as a 'shock' to Pogba. It is said that the player 'did not expect' to actually be left out of the team. The newspaper adds that Pogba isn't planning to kick up a fuss but could look to speak with Mourinho if it continues.
That spell in the wilderness looks like it will come to an end on Wednesday night when United face Valencia in the final game of the Champions League group stage, with Mourinho calling on Pogba to lead by example in what the Portuguese has hinted will be a heavily rotated team.
"I am looking for him to play well and to have a good impact in the game and a good impact in the team. A team with many players who don't have many miles on their legs, a team with some players who are not playing a lot," Mourinho is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"So, I hope people like Paul and a couple of others, that are normally in the team and have the number of miles players need to have a good level, can have a good impact on the team."
United are due to face fierce rivals Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield a few days after the Valencia trip, suggesting that Pogba could well 'auditioning' for his place in that game.