Data and Analysis @AdamDatasmith
Paul Pogba set to join Juventus or Real Madrid?
Juventus have reportedly offered Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro in exchange for Paul Pogba
Last Updated: 04/06/19 10:53am
Paul Pogba has been linked with Real Madrid and now his former club Juventus are reportedly keen to re-sign him - but what has the World Cup winner proved this season and where would he fit in Spain or Italy?
Juventus have already snapped up former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free and reportedly offered Manchester United in-demand Paulo Dybala and Alex Sandro in exchange for their World Cup winner.
Meanwhile, reports suggest Real Madrid are confident of signing Pogba and prising Eden Hazard from Chelsea after seven years at the club - with United's poster boy admitting playing for Real would be a "dream for anyone".
But what has Pogba proved this season, and does he surpass current midfielders at Madrid or Juventus?
Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It's one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Despite being widely criticised for inconsistent performances during the three years since he returned to Old Trafford, the 26-year-old was involved in a career-high 22 league goals this season.
Pogba scored 13 goals in the Premier League - albeit seven from the penalty spot - and assisted another nine, amounting to a joint-career high 0.7 goal involvements per 90 minutes - having achieved the same ratio in 2017/18.
Again, contrary to the criticism, Pogba reigns supreme across every key attacking measure at the club: goals, shots, penalties scored, assists, chances created - in addition to completing more passes than any other player.
In fact, Pogba surpassed all midfielders in the Premier League for goals, shots and assists in open play, while ranking third for passes attempted and touches - suggesting his distribution and involvement was equally influential.
The Frenchman's scoring rate was boosted from converting seven penalties this term, with his synonymous long, standing run-up being widely scrutinised - but five of his six goals from open play came from inside the box.
However, the graphic below reveals his league-topping shot count for a midfielder primarily stems from taking shots from range - an unwavering trait, despite only netting three of his 156 attempts in the Premier League over three years.
The interactive graphic below further reveals how the France international provided more midfield muscle than any of his counterparts with 493 duels - nearly double the total attempted by second-ranked Luke Shaw.
According to the Power Rankings, Pogba has produced fairly sporadic form over the past two seasons. However, a large proportion of dips were against 'big six' rivals - lending credence to the claim he underperforms in big games.
But United, as a team, have also underperformed as a whole against their main rivals, ranking bottom among the 'big six' clubs in head-to-head league meetings this season, inferior to Tottenham on goal difference.
'Big six' head to head, PL, 2018/19
Typically starting down his favoured left channel in midfield this season, Pogba exchanged passes most frequently with left-back Luke Shaw, followed by Nemanja Matic and compatriot Anthony Martial ahead of him.
Indeed, Pogba's link-up play with his France team-mate resulted in three goals between the pair, forging equally fruitful partnerships with Marcus Rashford and the outbound Ander Herrera.
The numbers emphasise how Pogba's distribution is most effective when feeding wide players with pace - an area Solskjaer looked to bolster after his initial appointment in December.
Despite evidence of his midfield mettle, the World Cup winner is frequently criticised for his workrate - and the stats back that up, to a degree.
This season, his top speed of 33.95 km/h was the 144th fastest burst in the top flight, while his 9.85 km and eight sprints per 90 minutes rank 206th and 235th, respectively, out of all players clocking 500 minutes or more.
Only last month, Solskjaer reiterated his desire to keep Pogba at the club, claiming his star midfielder's "workrate is improving all the time".
[Pogba's] work rate is improving all the time, that shows...he wants this to be a success.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
In fact, the graphic below reveals his average distance covered per game actually dropped under the Norwegian to 9.7 km per 90 minutes, compared with 10.0 km under Jose Mourinho.
However, the stats have revealed Solskjaer placed particular impetus on raising United's sprints per game and the midfielder responded - increasing his average of 7.1 per game to 8.4, in addition to stabilising those levels.
Pogba's best position has been debated since his return to Old Trafford, with his favoured position on the left of a three-man midfield widely regarded as his most effective.
But Mourinho stationed him primarily on the right of a two-man defensive pairing alongside Matic in a 4-2-3-1 formation during 2017/18, before he was typically reinstated to his preferred position during this campaign.
The heatmaps below reveal how he juggled defensive and attacking duties under Mourinho, tracking back in 2016/17, covering box to box in 2017/18, before primarily operating down the left channel in the opposition half this season.
His passing angles reflect this positional development: the maps below reveal how he sought overlapping runners in 2016/17, frequently passed sideways to Matic in 2017/18, before finding a more balanced directional range this term.
One of Pogba's core qualities is his range and power, although this talent, ironically, has also led to criticism for his uneconomic number of audacious shots and passes.
The map below illustrates this passing range and correlates nicely with the accuracy results in the graphic above - completing a pass in excess of 40 yards to his left but failing with similar attempts ahead of him to his right.
Where would Pogba fit in Spain or Italy?
Zinedine Zidane returned as Real Madrid boss in March after the club sacked Santiago Solari but the club finished third in La Liga - some 19 points adrift of champions Barcelona.
But Zidane is reportedly keen, and confident, of prising Pogba and Chelsea forward Eden Hazard to the Bernabeu this summer, and the stats suggest he needs to reinvigorate a stale midfield.
Pogba surpasses the current crop of midfielder in Madrid for goals and assists, while his average number of passes rivals Luca Modric and Isco - despite playing in a team that typically achieves a lower proportion of possession.
Juventus will also start a new era this summer after Massimiliano Allegri stood down as manager after five years at the club, with former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey being the blockbuster signing to date.
In fact, the Wales international is the only Juventus player to rival Pogba in the stats, while only Miralem Pjanic completed more passes per 90 minutes this season, typically from a deeper position.
However, should Pogba commit to United and the rebuilding project set to commence under Solskjaer this summer, then Football Whispers data provides a range of alternative players with similar skillsets.
Several candidates are at the centre of transfer speculation themselves, including Christian Eriksen, Philippe Coutinho, Abdolaye Doucoure and Youri Tielemans.
Other familiar names include Julian Draxler, Leon Goretzka, Dele Alli, Luka Modric, N'Golo Kante and Ross Barkley, while youngsters Kai Havertz, Giovani Lo Celso, Fabian Ruiz, Houssem Aouar and Franck Kessie are among the list.
Follow the Summer Transfer Window on Sky Sports
As well as keeping an eye on Sky Sports News, make sure you don't miss a thing with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.
- Transfer Centre LIVE!
- Transfer Ins and Outs
- Who should your PL club sign?
- Who's a free agent? Here's our out of contract XI
There's also the return of the Transfer Talk Podcast, the daily UK, Regional and European Paper Talk, plus features across skysports.com and the Sky Sports App.
If reading on skysports.com, comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click 'Report'.