Manchester United should have an obvious list of Paul Pogba transfer replacements

Ralf Rangnick has been honest when answering questions relating to Paul Pogba’s future this week.

When asked, he spoke candidly about the Frenchman coming back into the United first-team fold and how he can remain an important first-team player, even if he is set to depart from Old Trafford in the summer.

“He wants to show the fans of Manchester United, the board, the whole world what kind of player he can be, and even if it’s for only showing up for a new contract elsewhere, I mean, he will be highly motivated to do that. Why should I then not play him?”

Pogba has been a key player for the Reds since returning in 2016 for a then world-record fee. Yet his refusal to put pen to a new deal last summer all but confirmed that he’d be leaving the club for free at the end of this campaign.

Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid are tipped to be among the frontrunners to sign the 28-year-old. At United, it’s not yet clear whether the club will look to sign a replacement.

Bringing in at least one new midfielder has been a priority for the club, although it’s an athletic defence-oriented profile that’s set to take precedence in the market.

Yet if United were to try and find a player who matches up to Pogba from a stylistic point of view, then there are viable options out there.

To get an idea of the sort of players United could end up looking at, we can utilise the ‘similar profile’ tool provided by data experts FBref.

Fbref utilise Statsbomb football data to generate a list of up to ten players who display similarities in their statistical profile to a specific player. Below are those most comparable to Pogba.

Whilst a couple of the suggestions wouldn’t be realistic transfer targets for wider context reasons, such as Luka Modric who is now 36 and still integral to Real Madrid, the tool still throws up a number of interesting suggestions.

Perhaps the most prominent is Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The 26-year-old has been one of Serie A’s star players this season. He usually plays as a number eight in Lazio’s three-man midfield and brings loads of energy to his team both with and without the ball.

Milinkovic-Savic is extremely aggressive when pressing, and tends to win more than his fair share of duels both on the ground and in the air, no doubt in part thanks to his imposing 6ft2in profile.

Yet it’s his technical skillset that’ll draw the above comparisons with Pogba. Although maybe less gifted than the Frenchman, Milinkovic-Savic is an effective passer of the ball, capable of a wide range of progressive and piercing balls forward.

He’s registered eight league assists so far this season and ranks amongst the league’s best in his position in terms of the highest number of shot-creating actions made (54).

The Serbian also carries his own ever-present goal threat and has netted seven times in the league already this year.

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