Manchester United are closing in on a record-breaking deal for Paul Pogba, with senior players confident it is only a matter of time before he moves to Old Trafford.
The summer-long courtship of the France midfielder has moved up a gear, with United looking to hold formal talks with Juventus over a transfer that will break the £100million barrier.
United’s opening offer is expected to be £86m, and with add-ons for appearances, goals and trophies, the eventual fee will far exceed the £85m Tottenham received from Real Madrid for Gareth Bale in 2013.
Juventus maintain Pogba is not for sale but there is growing belief within United’s dressing room that the 23-year-old will return to the club he left four years ago.
Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, did not travel with United’s squad for the start of their tour to China and he will lead negotiations with Juventus to secure Pogba’s release.
Pogba and his agent Mino Raiola are understood to be due a 20 per cent bonus from the fee as part of their last contract negotiation with Juventus.
Though Raiola maintains Pogba will not ask to leave, Juventus may need him to do that in order to justify the sale to fans. The player is currently on holiday in Miami with Romelu Lukaku, another of Raiola’s clients.
United will not stop trying to make him their marquee signing. They are willing to pay Pogba, whose deal with Juventus runs until 2019, terms that could reach £300,000 a week over five years.
Jose Mourinho is putting his stamp on United’s squad and if, as expected, Pogba becomes their fourth addition of this window, it will not be the end of the club’s spending.Lukaku (right) takes a shot as Pogba attempts to block during the impromptu game of basketball
PAUL POGBA 2015-16 STATS
Honours: Serie A, Coppa Italia
Mourinho is looking for as many as four new faces as he seeks to build a squad that can challenge for the Premier League title as well as juggling the demands of a Europa League campaign.
Before he can get the players he wants — Mourinho will surely be interested in Raphael Varane of Real Madrid, who is expected to leave the Bernabeu this summer — United will have to let four squad members go.
The most likely departures are Juan Mata, who has little chance of playing under Mourinho, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Morgan Schneiderlin, who is the subject of interest from Everton.
Meanwhile, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the big omission when United’s squad left for their pre-season tour of China on Tuesday.
Mourinho has decided to give the Sweden striker more time to recover after he moved to Old Trafford on a free transfer following Euro 2016.
Anthony Martial, Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Marouane Fellaini were also missing from United’s flight to Shanghai after their countries reached the last 16 in France.
Sweden went out at the group stage, but Mourinho wants 34-year-old Ibrahimovic to have as much time as possible to be ready for the new season following his arrival from Paris Saint-Germain.
Ibrahimovic is expected to make his debut against Galatasaray in Gothenburg on July 30 or in Wayne Rooney’s testimonial against Everton on August 3.
United’s other summer signings, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly, are on the trip, along with the England trio of Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling and Marcus Rashford, who are unlikely to feature in the first two tour games against Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has not travelled after suffering a hamstring injury, and the absence of Guillermo Varela, James Wilson and Tyler Blackett has increased the possibility of them being sold or loaned out in the coming weeks.
Additional Reporting Chris Wheeler