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REAL MADRID

Real Madrid have 'Pogba plan'

Real Madrid will give their all right to the very last to secure the signature of Paul Pogba, but will also make sure to have back-up options lined up.

Real Madrid have 'Pogba plan'
Thananuwat Srirasant Getty Images

"There is as much chance of Paul Pogba ending up at Real Madrid as there is of him not ending up at Real Madrid," says the voice at the other end of the telephone, speaking in foreign-accented but flawless Spanish. It belongs to a trusted Pogba adviser who is a part of the effort to get the transfer of the summer over the line. "It's a matter of keeping calm; we're working on it," he adds.

"This could go on until the end of August... why not?"

A clear plan has been set out to take Pogba to the Bernabéu. It'll be a deal taken right to the wire - potentially twice. For while it has up to now been taken as read that everything will have to be signed and sealed before the Premier League transfer window shuts at 18:00 CEST on 8 August, at which point United will no longer be able to buy a replacement for the France international, AS' source now insists that isn't necessarily the case. "This could go on until the end of August... why not?"

In recent days, the strategy set out by Madrid and Mino Raiola, Pogba's agent, has changed direction - on the Spanish club's recommendation. Both Pogba and his representative have stopped publicly putting the pressure on United. They've already done their bit in that regard. First, it was Pogba who told reporters in Tokyo that it could be time "to have a new challenge." Then, Raiola twice came out with statements, first declaring that the Red Devils have known of his client's desire to leave "for a long time", before posting on social media: "Will he [Pogba] stay in Manchester? [...] the end of this story is not written."

The player continues to undergo pre-season training with United, safe in the knowledge that Madrid have a plan in place revolving around late transfer-window pushes for his signature. Los Blancos will make their first clear move for him in the opening days of August, in advance of the first key deadline on the 8th. If unsuccessful, they are then likely to make a second attempt to secure his purchase at the end of the month, ahead of the close of the LaLiga window on 2 September - although they would also make sure to line up a back-up signing.

Pogba has told Solskjaer he's keen to go to Real Madrid

"Either way, signing for Madrid doesn't come down to Paul," says AS' source, in a clear allusion to the fact that the ball is now in Los Blancos' court. After all, the player himself has let it be known that he's keen to move on in public comments and, this newspaper can reveal, has also made this plain in a behind-closed-doors conversation in which he told United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he is eager to join Madrid. As things stand, however, Pogba is not considering submitting a written transfer request.

Madrid, meanwhile, are remaining calm, as they feel time is on their side. If they can't get a deal done for Pogba before 8 August, they have a further 20 days or so to regroup before trying again, while also working on quality alternatives.

There can be little denying that, despite Madrid's major investment this summer (298m euros on Eden Hazard, Éder Militao, Rodrygo, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy), Zinedine Zidane is still short on midfield options. If Pogba doesn't arrive, Zidane will want a different midfielder to be brought in, or Madrid's first-choice trio will remain Casemiro (27), Toni Kroos (29) and Luka Modric (33), with only Fede Valverde and Isco (who will leave if a good offer comes in) the other options, as the club are preparing to send Dani Ceballos out on loan and sell James Rodríguez.

But Pogba is Zidane's preferred choice, with the most recent indications being that United will start discussions over his sale at 200m euros - 50m more than the maximum spend Madrid have set for the deal. Evidence of the possibility that the transfer could end up getting done, though, can be seen in the fact that United are now thought to be eyeing replacements for Pogba, with the likes of Bruno Fernández, Christian Eriksen and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the frame.