Zinedine Zidane suggests Real Madrid still in race for Juventus' Paul Pogba
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is not giving up on signing Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba this summer, saying "anything can happen" before the transfer deadline.
Manchester United appear best placed to sign Pogba, 23, although sources close to Juventus have told ESPN FC that the Italian champions will not accept less than €120 million for the France international and also want the Premier League club to pay the €25m fee for agent Mino Raiola, with the Old Trafford hierarchy reluctant to meet those demands.
Ex-France star Zidane has spoken regularly, if guardedly, through the summer on his admiration for his compatriot, and Pogba himself has also chosen his words carefully when asked if he would prefer to return to former club United or join the European champions.
Speaking at a news conference in Ohio ahead of Madrid's first preseason outing this summer against Paris Saint-Germain, Zidane was asked if there was now any chance of Pogba moving to the Bernabeu before the transfer deadline on Aug. 31.
"I don't know. At the moment we are here working," he replied. "Until [Aug. 31] anything can happen. He is not yet a Madrid player. We cannot talk about what will happen."
Madrid appear unlikely to pay anything like the €120m asking price unless they could first raise funds by selling squad players such as James Rodriguez or Alvaro Morata for significant sums.
Pressed as to whether this meant he had asked club president Florentino Perez to sign Pogba, he said: "Now is not the moment to talk about this.
"Everyone is interested in Pogba. He is a great player and when you are at Madrid, you always want the best. Now we must respect some things -- he is a Juve player. Today I can say nothing."
Zidane added that it was difficult but not impossible for a club in Madrid's position, having won two of the last three Champions Leagues, to sign players to keep improving.
"It is difficult to improve Madrid's squad. We won [the Champions League] with this squad," he said. "There are good players elsewhere too. You can always improve things and it will always be like that here. There are always players who can improve the team."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan