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IT may just have been pure coincidence — but the more cynical saw it differently.
Around the time Lionel Messi was touching down in Paris, Paul Pogba was posting the Instagram battle cry “It’s time for the NEW SEASON.”
Paul Pogba will need to maintain his standout displays should he wish to join PSG’s GalacticosCredit: Getty
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Some saw it as confirmation he will be staying at Manchester United, after a summer of fluttering his eyelashes towards the Parc des Prince.
The more optimistic reckoned it was a hint he is about to pen the new deal that will make him the highest earner in Prem history.
Others, though, think it was more a shrug of acceptance at having to wait 12 months before adding his name to PSG’s all-star cast.
Of course, it’s not a bad situation to be in. Sign on the dotted line and trousers £400,000 a week, or sit tight, run down the last year of the contract and walk away for free.
You wouldn’t imagine it will cause too many sleepless nights for Pogba, who has long given the impression of being a glass-half-full kind of guy.
It’s easy to see why given the apparent no-lose situation he now finds himself in.
But don’t think that means the Frenchman will suddenly find himself in a pressure-free position over the next nine months. Far from it.
You could argue the heat will be on more than ever, not least that he now faces an audition to prove he is worthy of being a Galactico.
If he is at United for the duration — by that I mean the whole season, not the rest of his career — two good games followed by two bad really won’t do.
Never mind the likes of Graeme Souness on his case, try convincing a full stadium he isn’t just going through the motions.
For while a packed Old Trafford obviously holds no fears, the fickle nature of fans means it will only take a couple of dodgy displays before people are having a pop.
Mind you, Pogba being Pogba, it wouldn’t surprise you if he did end up having a stellar season — and finishing it as Player of the Year. There are certainly worse 25-1 shots.
WILL POCH LAST IT OUT?
He certainly didn’t start like a big-odds outsider yesterday, with a four-assist opener in United’s destruction of Leeds.
Nine months of that and they will be forming a queue far beyond Paris.
And on the subject of big-priced bets, you’d get double those odds on Mauricio Pochettino still being in charge of PSG beyond this season if he doesn’t end it as a European champion.
For if Pogba is under pressure to prove he should be one of the next names on the most glittering bill in football, it’s nothing compared to that on Poch.
The man whose teams have always promised so much, yet delivered so little, now has to lift not just any trophy but THE trophy. No excuses.
If PSG isn’t the name etched on the Champions League at the end of May, there’s more chance of them signing me next summer than Pochettino getting another crack at it.
POGBA’S DREAM LINK-UP
He’s already achieved the nigh on unachievable in his half a season in charge — failing to win Ligue 1.
It was only the second time in the past nine seasons that PSG haven’t been champions and it is unthinkable they won’t be top of the pile this time.
Yet ironically, whatever domestic honours the former Spurs manager collects this season will ultimately count for nothing.
Not if their European journey ends without a lap of honour at St Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena next year.
Last season’s semi-final loss to Manchester City was accepted because Poch had only taken over in January, plus knocked out Bayern and Barcelona en route to the last four.
This time, with Messi joining Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and the rest, there is no wriggle room for the manager.
Fall short and he’ll go, make no mistake. If Pogba did join a team that had failed once more in Europe, he’d be playing under a different gaffer, for sure.
As far as United are concerned, losing him for nothing again clearly wouldn’t be a good look.
Yet if it comes after an audition that ends with the Premier League back at Old Trafford, then at least he’d have given them the perfect leaving gift before crossing the Channel. Fingers crossed, eh.
Sergio Ramos, Lionel Messi and their PSG team-mates will be under pressure to win the Champions League this seasonCredit: EPA
IT’S RAW PLEASURE
EVERY now and then, something restores your faith in football.
This time it was FA Trophy winners Hornchurch edging a five-goal thriller against Warrington Rylands, last season’s FA Vase heroes, in the first Non-League Super Cup.
An end-to-end battle, with two sets of players in it for the love of the game.
No self-entitled egos only in it for the size of a wage packet. Football in the raw.
The fans swapped banter as they stood having a pint.
Certainly more exciting than the turgid Community Shield ‘showpiece’ and those endless games between two teams more scared of defeat than intent on winning.
It was the football we grew up with but rarely see now. They may not have the riches but when it comes to heart and character, it’s a different league.
PLENTY have used Covid call-offs to their advantage in the Super League, with a growing suspicion teams may be targeting games they feel they can win.
A postponed match ensures players are fresher for certain fixtures and league placings are decided on a win-percentage basis.
It has made a mockery of the season and it’s just fortunate those providing such a spectacle on the field are better at their jobs than those at HQ.
One thing is certain. When this season reaches a conclusion, no champions will ever have a bigger asterisk next to their name.
WHEN Romelu Lukaku was rattling them in for Everton they called him a flat-track bully who went missing in the big games.
At Manchester United, they said he was too slow, too big and needed too many chances to score — despite 42 goals in 77 starts.
Now he’s back at Chelsea for £97.5million, some claim they should have spent the extra to sign Erling Haaland instead.
My money’s on Lukaku having the last laugh . . . although even if he wins the Golden Boot, I guess a few will still have a dig.
Romelu Lukaku is a strong contender to finish this season as the Premier League’s top scorer
KINGS OF THE NORTH-WEST
THE final roll of honour from Tokyo made interesting reading, if only to tell us what we already knew . . . that the North-West is tops for sporting excellence.
An impressive 22 medals — ten gold — came from the region. Two more than London and four ahead of the Midlands and South-East.
More champs, in fact, than the likes of Canada, Brazil and New Zealand. And, most important, well ahead of Yorkshire.
Maybe now you can see what we mean by southern softies!
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