Manchester United could lose Paul Pogba on a free transfer this summer, but Ralf Rangnick has an exciting replacement waiting to replace him
Manchester United may be planning for life without Paul Pogba as his contract wrangle continues, but the rapid rise of starlet Hannibal Mejbri will give Ralf Rangnick some reason to be optimistic for the future.
Pogba’s current deal is due to run out in June 2022 and under the Bosman ruling, the World Cup winner is free to discuss terms over a pre-contract agreement as early as January 1.
It appears increasingly likely that the Frenchman will depart the club when his contract expires, leaving United with a void in central midfield.
Rangnick, who took over as Man United’s interim coach until the end of the season, has reportedly prioritised signing a midfielder in January.
But the German tactician already has a teenage prodigy waiting in the wings to fill Pogba’s boots.
Mejbri signed for the Red Devils in 2019 from AS Monaco for around £10million when he was just 16 and his enormous potential is reflected by his meteoric rise through the youth ranks at United.
The 18-year-old pledged his international allegiance to Tunisia last year and made his international debut in May, winning seven senior caps since then.
And Mejbri is beginning to show his talents for his country, having produced a man of the match performance in their Arab Cup semi-final win over Egypt on Tuesday.
The attacking midfielder tormented the opposition defence throughout the game as Tunisia earned a narrow 1-0 win to reach the final against Nigeria.
Known simply as ‘Hannibal’, the highly-rated midfielder is tipped to have a bright future at the club and has featured prominently for the Under-23 development side.
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According to The Athletic, the club’s coaching staff have been training the youngster in a deeper central midfield position with a view to replacing Pogba.
Hannibal is said to enjoy being the main creator in the No10 role, but it has been notable that he has been deployed in a box-to-box role this season.
It is the same position Pogba has occupied for the club and goes some way to indicating he could take his spot in the first-team squad if Pogba departs.
The 28-year-old cost a record £89million from Juventus in 2016 but has largely failed to deliver on the expectations placed upon him.
It was thought that re-signing the roaming playmaker would allow United to go on and reassert their dominance on European football.
Instead, Pogba only has Europa League and EFL Cup winners’ medals to his name in his five years at Old Trafford.
Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have all been linked with a move to sign Pogba on a free transfer next summer.
Rangnick recently addressed questions surrounding Pogba’s future in a press conference, suggesting he only wants committed players in his squad.
“I wouldn’t say he’s not worth keeping but, of course, players have to want to play and stay for a club and a big club like Manchester United,” Rangnick said.
“If a player does not want to play for a club like Manchester United medium or long-term, I don’t think it makes sense to convince him to change his mind.”
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