Football

United to bid for Pogba

Club officials in Turin to negotiate with Juventus for midfield ace

Manchester United are set to make an official bid for Paul Pogba, according to Sky Italy, with club officials meeting the Juventus directors Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici as well as the player's agent, Mino Raiola, to discuss the deal.

Manchester United's executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, was originally due to travel with the team to China for their pre-season tour yesterday.

But, he did not board the plane and it is understood that he will be part of the delegation that is meeting Juventus.

United are expected to make an opening bid of £100 million ($178m) and many feel Juventus will be hard pressed to reject the offer, although they are still hoping to hold on to the 23-year-old midfielder, who has a contract until 2019.

Raiola is currently based in Empoli, while Pogba is away on holiday and will return to Turin on Aug 6.

His path to Old Trafford was seemingly cleared last week when Real Madrid withdrew from the race for his signature.

New United boss Jose Mourinho recently spoke of four priority targets in the transfer window and playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan's capture marked their third acquisition, following the arrivals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and centreback Eric Bailly.

Ibrahimovic joined Mourinho's side on a free transfer after leaving French champions Paris Saint-Germain at the end of last season, but the Premier League club's legion of fans in China won't get a first glimpse of the marquee signing in a United shirt, as the Sweden striker takes an extended break following Euro 2016.

HOLIDAY

Although United's 25-man squad for the trip includes Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, David De Gea and Paddy McNair, who all exited Euro 2016 later than Ibrahimovic, the former Barcelona and Inter Milan forward was granted extra time off by Mourinho and is currently sunning himself in Los Angeles.

Ibrahimovic's first United appearance is likely to come against Galatasaray in Gothenburg on July 30.

The 35-year-old's absence won't slow the clamour to see United's glamour friendlies against Borussia Dortmund in Shanghai on Friday and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City in Beijing on Monday.

Ibrahimovic's fellow close-season arrivals Eric Bailly, an Ivory Coast defender signed from Villarreal, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, are on the plane to Asia for the week-long trip.

Also included is England left-back Luke Shaw, who will continue to step up his fitness after making his return from long-term injury in the 2-0 friendly win at Wigan last Saturday.

Youngsters Axel Tuanzebe, Will Keane and Andreas Pereira will get a chance to impress after being named in the group.

France internationals Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin, Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Italy's Matteo Darmian are not going to the Far East following their Euro 2016 campaigns.

Striker James Wilson started against Wigan but is not included, nor are Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Tyler Blackett and Guillermo Varela.

- Wire Services.

XHAKA GETS PER'S VOTE

Defender Per Mertesacker expects Granit Xhaka to set the tempo from the Arsenal engine room this season and described him as the "perfect signing" for the club.

The 23-year-old, who joined Arsenal in May, captained Borussia Moenchengladbach to fourth place in the Bundesliga last season and also helped Switzerland reach the last 16 of the Euro 2016.

British media reported Xhaka's transfer fee at about £30 million ($53.3m), which would make the midfield enforcer Arsenal's third most expensive signing behind Mesut Ozeil and Alexis Sanchez.

"He's a leader and that is really important, especially in midfield. He has got a very good attitude, is very composed on the ball and contributes a lot," Mertesacker said.

"He is a good passer as well, so he will set the tempo. I am looking forward to how he does it, how composed he will be in training and in the games. He will be the perfect signing for us."

Francis Coquelin, who played 26 league games last campaign, said Arsenal needed to dig deep in big games and must pay closer attention to details in order to push for the title, after finishing second to Leicester City.

"We had a strong season, but it's going to be about details," Coquelin said. "The games all the people expect us to win, we have to win them and respond as well in the big games. I think that's what we've done in the last couple of years so we have to carry on doing this." - Reuters.

KLAVAN SET TO SEAL POOL MOVE

Defender Ragnar Klavan's medical at Liverpool is under way ahead of his £4.2 million ($7.5m) transfer from Augsburg, according to Sky Sports.

The Reds are expected to also pay add-ons for the 30-year-old Estonia captain, who played in both legs of last season's Europa League tie against Liverpool and would become Juergen Klopp's fourth summer signing.

The experienced Estonia international has been brought in as cover for the centre-back spot as Mamadou Sakho and Joe Gomez both have injuries and Tiago Ilori, who could have been a fall-back option, is heading to the Olympics with Portugal.

Klavan has more than 100 caps and has had four seasons in the Bundesliga.

Klopp sees him as the ideal man to offer back-up and leadership in much the same way as Kolo Toure did before his departure this summer.

The boss has been in the market for a defender with Toure and Martin Skrtel no longer at the club and Sakho set to miss the start of the Premier League season as he recovers from an Achilles injury.

Joel Matip was brought in on a free transfer earlier this summer and started Sunday's friendly at Wigan alongside Dejan Lovren.

Sadio Mane - a £36m signing from Southampton - and German goalkeeper Loris Karius are the other new arrivals at Anfield as Klopp prepares for his first full season in charge.
- Wire Services.

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