Time for Man United and Paul Pogba to part ways: Neil Humphreys
United might have to cut their losses on the World Cup winner after four years of trying to make it work
Didier Deschamps was only half right when he claimed that Paul Pogba "cannot be happy" with his career at Manchester United.
No one is happy with Pogba's career at Old Trafford.
Watching a World Cup winner drift towards irrelevance after his team struggled to find a position or a formation that suited his talents has hardly been a joyful experience.
Both parties may be forced to cut their losses and accept that the homecoming hero will never materialise, despite around four years of trying.
Pogba only feels at home now because he's back among Les Bleus.
This morning's (Singapore time) friendly against Finland will be followed by Nations League games against Portugal and Sweden in the coming days, as the Pogba paradox continues.
He belongs in a French jersey. His coach Deschamps makes him feel welcome, building a World Cup-winning 4-3-3 formation around the languid quarterback.
Juventus opted for a similar line-up in 2015 and reached the Champions League final with Pogba on the left side of a midfield trio. He starred for club and country.
When he joined United, he was poised to rule the world.
Clearly, that hasn't happened. If anything, Pogba has regressed, suggesting the fault lies with the Red Devils and the easy punching bag of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But it wasn't for the want of trying. Like Deschamps' France and Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus, different United managers lavished millions on potential midfield partners for the erratic Frenchman.
None came close to Andrea Pirlo's artistry or N'Golo Kante's industry, perhaps, but Pogba has still exhausted more partners than Dancing with the Stars.
Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera and even Marouane Fellaini all took a stab at babysitting Pogba and accommodating his distinct needs, but a player groomed in trios struggled in midfield duos.
So Nemanja Matic was effectively signed for United to cheat the maths. He had to be a plus one, effectively doing the work of two men to compensate for Pogba's lack of defensive discipline.
And Matic wasn't alone. Scott McTominay was promoted. Fred had a go. Donny van de Beek was presumably signed to mind the gap, while Bruno Fernandes rarely pretended to bother, conducting proceedings up front and ignoring whatever was happening over his shoulder.
United really tried. But Pogba's inconsistency proved to be more trying. His positional indiscipline remains a problem without a solution. His defensive frailties persist.
In recent months, Solskjaer's choice of holding midfielder didn't really matter. Opponents mostly targeted Pogba.
His bizarre handball against West Ham United back in July instigated a loss of form that he has yet to recover from. Across nine league games, Pogba has started six and conceded three penalties. He has become a liability inside his own box.
Deschamps might suggest the fault lies with Pogba being in his own box in the first place. The 27-year-old prefers to be further forward, spraying passes for teammates and dictating play in the final third.
But in his last nine league matches, Pogba has neither scored nor conjured an assist. Fernandes has seized the initiative.
Pogba looks the odd man out, despite Solskjaer's determined efforts to accommodate the mercurial talent.
United have tinkered continuously to settle their midfielder. He's been on the left side of a midfield trio - a position he favours with France. He's had both advanced and free roles, but hasn't dominated in either.
The Red Devils still cannot reach a consensus on the best position for a £89.3 million (S$159.3m) signing in his fifth season at the club. They have bought, rotated and sold players and shunted Pogba from one side to the other in the hope of an epiphany.
They're still waiting. Managers have come and gone. Only the common denominator endures.
Pogba has started just five of 12 United games so far this season and been reduced to undignified cameos. He was given just eight minutes against Everton.
One of the finest midfielders of his generation deserves a career that doesn't end in ignominy or - even worse - with a rueful shrug of indifference.
Pogba clearly isn't happy, but Deschamps' assertions of a lack of playing time and being used in the wrong positions do not satisfactorily explain the midfielder's peripheral contributions to games.
He doesn't want to be there any more.
If Pogba's heart is already in Madrid, then the rest of him might as well follow suit.