Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has indicated the future of star midfielder Paul Pogba could lie elsewhere, as the champions look to tighten their grip on Serie A with another home game against Verona on Sunday.
Pogba has become an integral part of Juve’s midfield since joining the Italian giants in 2012 on a free transfer from Manchester United. However the 21-year-old Frenchman has risen to global prominence and an elite handful of clubs with riches Juventus can only dream of are waiting in the wings hopeful of securing his signature.
United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain were put on red alert in midweek when Allegri told reporters:
“Regarding Pogba, we have to live in the present. We don’t know what will happen in June. A lot of clubs are looking at him, but that’s normal. He’s young, strong and has yet to reach his full potential as a player.”
Juventus host Verona for the second time this week on Sunday – four days after a 6-1 drubbing of the Gialloblu in the last 16 Cup win in Turin – looking to retain their three-point lead on Roma. Allegri hedged his bets, rested strike pair Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente for the last 16 tie and his choice was vindicated as striker Sebastian Giovinco hit a brace and Pogba another in the one-sided display.
Roma under pressure
Roma’s title credentials, meanwhile face scrutiny in a potentially treacherous trip away to Palermo less than a week after Francesco Totti saved their blushes with a brace to snatch a point from a 2-2 draw with city rivals Lazio. Totti is likely to miss the trip to Sicily because of flu symptoms and Palermo, who were unbeaten since October before last week’s 4-3 defeat away to Fiorentina, will be no pushover.
Palermo are being watched closely by clubs desperate to lure one of their star players, Paulo Dybala, whose nine goals and seven assists so far have reportedly made him a transfer target for the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Like Juventus, Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini could cash in come June, although the Italian with the reputation for his trigger-happy firing of coaches has slapped a prohibitive valuation of “over €40 million” on the Argentinian.
“Dybala is worth over €40 million, but I won’t sell him until June,” Zamparini told Radio Due. “A lot of foreign clubs are courting him, including Manchester United. I told them he isn’t for sale right now but that we could come to the table again in six months.”
With Juve and Roma setting the pace, the battle continues for third-place supremacy with no less than seven clubs between one and six points behind Lazio, third at 12 points behind Juve. Lazio showed last week they have the mettle to challenge the likes of Napoli and both Milan giants for the third and final spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
The Biancoceleste get another chance to underline their ambitions at home to Napoli, in fourth a point adrift, on Sunday but will have to do so without influential attacking midfielder Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian had scored five goals and made five assists in his past five league games but has been sidelined with a knee ligament injury suffered in training on Thursday.
Milan, eighth at 17 points adrift of Juventus and five behind Lazio, host Atalanta on Sunday looking to end their three game winless streak.
City rivals Inter, who sit ninth a point further adrift, could give recent signing Xherdan Shaqiri his debut away to struggling Empoli in Saturday’s early game. The Swiss international signed on a four-and-a-half-year deal from Bayern Munich last week, said he has joined the club with firm ambitions.
“I wanted a new experience and now I can’t wait to start playing,” said Shaqiri. “The goal is to get back into the Champions League. I’m convinced we’ll get back up there soon.”
Italian Serie A fixtures
Empoli v Inter
Palermo v Roma