The Adrien Rabiot paradox: What exactly would Manchester United be getting?

Veronique Rabiot thought Adrien would make a fine fencer.

It’s a discipline the French have a strong tradition in, going back to the 1896 Athens Olympics, and it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see a tall white-jacketed figure advancing up the piste, a balestra here, a fleche there, ready to pull off his mask at the end of a bout to reveal Adrien and those long, wavy locks.

Unfortunately for sabrerattlers, he chose to play football.

“Very early on he told me, ‘I want to be a footballer and play for the national team’,”Veronique was recalled Ouest France earlier this yea.

The epee could be kept sheathed. Her boy was visualized and realized. Rabiot was first seen in Ligue 1 a ten years ago. When he helped Paris Saint-Germain win 2013-14 the championship, he was still a teenager. Carlo Ancelotti trusted him and he made his senior debut in France shortly after turning 21. His pedigree is indisputable and perhaps it’s just as well Veronique did not push him into fencing.

Manchester United might be listening to calls from these people. ‘en garde’They do now work on a dealJuventus to Sign Rabiot?

The season has just begun and the club is already missing a France international midfielder.

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Paul Pogba divided opinion in his six-year second spell at Old Trafford and if there is a silver lining to draw from that experience, it’s that it represents perfect preparation for l’enigma Rabiot, should he join; for there are few players quite as polarising and confounding.

In the face of regular criticism, Veronique has tried to humanise her son and remind exasperated supporters that he isn’t an insentient Panini sticker, but a real person with feelings too.

“I wish the general public knew what it’s like along the way for footballers to reach the top level,”She spoke. “All that gets talked about is how they are overpaid et cetera. But people don’t realise how many sacrifices they have to make, the mental toughness involved.”

Rabiot was never more determined than when his father, Michel Provost suffered a stroke in 2007. He was left with locked-in syndrome. “Ever since his accident, I’ve been fighting for him on the pitch,”He told Le Parisien.

Rabiot was just a boy at the moment, barely 12.

Manchester City recruited him to their academy. He returned to France six months later in part to be with his father. “It’s complicated,”Rabiot stated, “because he’s in a hospital in Auxerre and I’m (two hours away) in Paris.”

The condition of Rabiot’s father is considered one of the reasons why Veronique took an even more hands-on role in her son’s career.

“She has followed me all over, since I was little, to England and the south of France (where Adrien played for Pau and Toulouse). She has an important place,”He said. “Agents are not really her thing and for the moment, she doesn’t think it’s necessary. Every time someone calls, she gives them the same answer. She was the one in front of (sporting director) Leonardo to negotiate my pro contract (at PSG).”


Veronique Rabiot has taken a hands-on role in her son’s career (Photo: Getty)

As was the case with Pogba, perceptions of Rabiot have tended to come through the prism of how he has been represented, and Veronique’s reputation precedes her. Alain Casanova, former Toulouse coach RMCHe never had a problem during his loan period from PSG in 2013. He did, however, claim he had to push back on Veronique wanting to attend all her son’s training sessions. “I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable with his team-mates, seeing that his mother was on the sidelines.”

Veteran sporting directors described working with her as negotiating like a game. “scene from a film”.

Walter Sabatini wanted to sign Rabiot for Roma in 2014 and probably felt he’d done the hard part after reaching an agreement with PSG. “We had a lunchtime appointment,” He has recalled. Veronique and Sabatini had agreed to meet in the parking lot. “The other son was there, waiting for us. He looked straight out from the Foreign Legion. He was sat in a chair in the car park. No one was there.

“We got talking and I said we already had a deal with the club (PSG). She was about to get up, but she added something that no one could understand for me. I still understood what she meant. I checked, and I was right. I flew into a rage. She wanted to talk to (Roma’s coach at the time Rudi) Garcia. I was furious and fled.

“Things like that can never be allowed to happen because if you give a mother a one-on-one with the coach, the next thing you know she’ll be in the dressing room.”

Rabiot stayed at Parc des Princes for another five years, winning the league and two French cup competitions repeatedly. After December 2018’s breakdown of negotiations to extend his contract, Rabiot spent the last six months at the club on the margins.

He was then seen out at a nightclub after PSG’s last-gasp exit against Manchester United in the Champions League last-16 the following March and made the mistake of liking an Instagram post by Patrice Evra, in which the former France full-back threatened to slap TV pundit Jerome Rothen after Rothen, himself a former PSG player, took issue with how exuberantly United old boy Evra celebrated Marcus Rashford’s winning added-time penalty at the Parc.

Disciplined internally by PSG, the French players’ union would later deem the punishment of withholding a week’s wages and a bonus payment excessive, ruling in favour of Rabiot. He had already fled for Juventus at that point, but there was no going home.  There were banners at Parc which didn’t require translation, like “Rabiot black list”.

Rabiot was in dire need of a fresh start a year after making what Didier Deschamps called “A Fresh Start.” “an enormous error”France won by refusing the 11-man standby list to the 2018 World Cup finals.

Turin was like a home from home.

The French Alps are visible from its tree-lined boulevards and the local dialect is infused with vocabulary from across the border in Rabiot’s homeland. Juventus colours have always been the best for French players, from Deschamps to Zinedine zidane, Lilian Thuram, and of course Michel Platini. Why not Rabiot

It was hoped he would continue Juventus’ tremendous success in the free agency market too. Eight league titles had been won on Bosmans signings. These included Andrea Pirlo, Fernando Llorente and Sami Khedira. There was the potential for Pogba and then the profit from selling him back.

A ringing endorsement arrived from Gigi Buffon no less, who returned to Juventus at the same time after spending a year at PSG — “Gigi in Paris” — with Rabiot. “He’s a fantastic mix,” The veteran goalkeeper stated. “He’s got Pogba’s strength”It is designed to look like a “proper wardrobe”.  Buffon even claimed to see “the personality of Arturo Vidal and potentially the dynamism and late runs of Claudio Marchisio”.

The characteristics of the best Juventus midfield of all time were rolled into one. A midfield that generations of Juventus fans have compared to theirs, one that was surpassed by Miralem Pjanic, and Khedira. Rabiot, Aaron Ramsey, Emre Kan, and a lesser extent, Emre Can, ended the spell.



Rabiot joined Juventus in 2019 (Photo: Getty).

Juventus retained their title for another year but let’s face it, that was considered the bare minimum after the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo. At a time when expectations were higher than ever, the team was found wanting in the middle of the park, more so than ever after Pjanic’s move to Barcelona.

They got relatively little bang for their buck from Rabiot and Ramsey — although the Welshman at least scored in what was effectively a title decider against Inter Milan in March 2020. The salaries those two negotiated as free agents also put them in the highest pay bracket at the club after Ronaldo and Matthijs de Ligt, which made them lightning rods for criticism and symbols of the decline of Juventus’ midfield and the decline of the Old Lady as a whole.

Rabiot’s return from lockdown that early summer later than some of his team-mates for a non-obligatory training camp wasn’t endearing either, with La StampaReporting that he was on strike against wage deferrals in order to help the club through the pandemic.

Rabiot offered to help later that same day. Sarcastic rebuttalInstagram: One story with the subject looking pensive, and the caption “when you realise it’s your last day of… strike”…and another one of the bottles of what appears to have poison with the label “Newspaper-TV press. Do not swallow.”

The incident led to speculation about his future and whether he’d be one and done in Turin, on his way again after a single season. Rabiot, his team-mates, and coaches recall how they were touched by the gift of a bottle of burgundy each from Rabiot each Christmas.

Le Duc, as he is known — that’s The Duke for those of you who skipped French at school — is a deceptive player to analyse.

Rabiot stands tall and is elegant-looking. He is also left-footed. But he isn’t especially technical. He rarely scores, assists, or creates chances. He is not able to play the game.

Why then, Juventus supporters ask, is he on €7million-a-year net, the same wage packet, more or less, as Dusan Vlahovic? A better question is how come Maurizio Sarri, Pirlo and Max Allegri have almost always played him when they have been the club’s coach?

One Serie A player The Athletic spoke to couldn’t believe the scepticism around Rabiot: “He’s amazing. One of the best I’ve played against. Granted, Juve don’t suit his style but as a player, he’s top level. He was always that millisecond quicker to the ball than you. Just the way he moved and cared for the ball left an impression on me.”

Sabatini still rates Sabatini, and this man brought the likes Alisson, Marquinhos Erik Lamela, Javier Pastore and Javier Pastore to Europe while also signing Mohamed Salah as Roma’s representative. “I respect everyone’s opinion,”He said, “but it is rash to say that he is poor or mediocre. For me he is a very good player, with one flaw: when he plays badly, he is noticeable, many others go unnoticed.”

Rabiot also tends to play well when his team lose, as was the case in the second leg of Juventus’ last 16 Champions League tie against Villarreal back in March and when he scored that wondergoal against AC Milan in July 2020, carrying the ball from inside his own half before letting rip and finding the top corner.

It’s important that Rabiot has averaged 40 matches per season in three seasons at Allianz Stadium. Rabiot can be relied on to be healthy and fit enough to play regularly, unlike Pogba.

It’s his physicality and athleticism that stand out. StatsBomb data showed that he averaged 5.02 pressure regains per 90 minutes in Serie A last year, which was comfortably the highest of any Juventus player.

Imagine Timothee Chalemet being possessed by Scott McTominay.

Allegri would often use the Parisien as a route-one outlet, going long to the 188cm (6ft 2in) Rabiot, exploiting his height and springiness to win knockdowns, like the one that led to Moise Kean’s opening goal away to Spezia last September.

Leonardo Bonucci takes route one to the opposition penalty area…

…with Rabiot nodding it back for Kean to chest down and finish.

While it may not be Ten Hag-ball, it isn’t too dissimilar to how coach Simone Inzaghi made the most of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at Lazio. It’s just that the Serb, a former Serie A midfielder of the year, chips in with far more goals and assists — 49 in the league over the past three seasons, compared with Rabiot’s 10.

Schemes like this, and his role in Allegri’s pragmatic style, do him little in the way of favours too, regardless of whether they end in a goal or not. Rabiot enables Juventus to play in a way fans don’t like — a team who don’t entertain.

Paolo Di Canio is now a Sky Italia pundit and has compared Rabiot to a footballer “giraffe”.

So, the Rabiot paradox as described by Emiliano Atturo, continues. What you have is “a starter for Juventus, always called up for France, who is not considered good enough for one or the other.”

“The Duke won’t abdicate” was L’Equipe’s headline in June after a 1-1 draw with Croatia, a rematch of the 2018 World Cup final, in the Nations League.

Deschamps welcomed him back into the fold in 2020 and Rabiot remains in the squad despite the verbal exchange between Veronique and team-mate Kylian Mbappe’s father which almost eclipsed the striker’s penalty shootout miss against Switzerland and the early elimination from last summer’s European Championship it precipitated.

Rabiot scored France’s goal in that game against Croatia and, for now at least, holds off competition from this summer’s most expensive transfer, Real Madrid’s potential €100 million new boy Aurelien Tchouameni, for a place in the starting XI.

Pogba’s recent meniscus tear also gives Rabiot a good chance of featuring at the World Cup in November and December as long as he starts the club season well, while his hybrid role — wide on the left in a 4-4-2 to cover for Mbappe, as he used to for Ronaldo with Juventus — matches well with his day-job, where he succeeded Blaise Matuidi.

Rabiot was the fastest sprinter at Juventus last year. He covered the second most ground per 90 minutes. Juan Cuadrado was only able to reach his peak speed and continue hitting it as often as Rabiot.

The Premier League is perfect for you.

But what about Ten Hag’s brand of football? Other than the occasional carry, Rabiot could not be more different from Frenkie de Jong if — that is — one is signed as an alternative to the other.

What does it tell us about Ronaldo’s future too, if a player of Rabiot’s physical output, is to be reunited with his former Juventus team-mate, presumably to do some running for him?

How serious is United about quietening the noise from the club by following Rabiot or Marko Arnautovic, who have, for different reasons made headlines on the pitch?

Rabiot is an enigma. However, United’s continued management is the greatest source of confusion in football.

(Top photo: Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images)

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