Jose Mourinho is “completely in the dark” about the motives of Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola, but stressed that the Manchester United midfielder has never told him that he wants to leave.
A cloud hangs over the club-record signing a month into the 2018-19 campaign, with reports of a tense relationship with the manager compounded by an apparent desire to move on.
Pogba even reportedly told executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward of his wish to leave Old Trafford as Barcelona circled, while the midfielder has so far avoided publicly committing to a side he returned to in 2016.
Former captain Gary Neville says that, as a fan, he would be happy to see the 25-year-old leave if his focus was not on United, but Mourinho says the World Cup winner has not told him that he wants to go.
The Portuguese explained: “Paul came back after the World Cup in the week before we started the Premier League, so we are together for about two months or so.
“He never told me he wants to leave. Never. So, I can only comment on what is real for me, not in what I read, not in what I listen.
“I have no direct relation with the people that write or the people that listen.
“I have a direct relation with the players – not (just) Paul, the players – and he never told me he wants to leave.”
Asked if he thought Pogba wanted to stay, Mourinho retorted: “If he doesn’t tell me he wants to leave, it’s because he wants to stay. That’s my conclusion, no?”
The United manager will also take what he reads about Pogba’s agent with a pinch of salt until implication becomes explicit.
Earlier this year Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola claimed Raiola offered the France international to him, with chatter continuing to bubble along into other opportunities in terms of moving.
“If I watch Mr Raiola on the screen saying the player wants to leave, and that he is organising a way for him to try to leave or so on, then I will believe,” Mourinho said.
“But in this moment, I am completely in the dark.
“The only thing that is clear for me is that the player never – in all these days we are together – told me he wants to leave.”
Pogba has, though, previously said that he would be fined if he opened up about his happiness, while over the international break he said “who knows what will happen in the next few months?”
“You have to ask him,” Mourinho said when asked about such comments. “As a manager, I tell you the truth.
“That’s his problem, that’s his relation(ship) with the media – not with me. I am not going to comment on that.”
Pogba’s future was the subject of rife speculation over the summer, as was compatriot Anthony Martial’s.
The forward has not always seen eye-to-eye with Mourinho and was fined for the way he went about returning from United’s American pre-season tour for the birth of his second child.
Martial’s deal runs out next summer, although the club have an option for the following year, while the contracts of Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata are also running down.
“I hope they will stay,” Mourinho said when asked about that quartet.
“We had a similar conversation last season about Marouane (Fellaini) and I was always saying ‘I hope he stays, I believe he stays’.
“I say the same and I hope that they stay. Of course, I am happy with the players.
“David is David (De Gea), no need of more words.
“Luke’s evolution makes us believe he goes in the right direction and of course I want to keep him.
“Juan and Ander, even if they are not playing or not playing a lot, not starting matches, by the personality point-of-view and character point-of-view, by what they represent in the modern society in football, they are almost unique pieces that I also don’t want to lose.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P