France national team coach Didier Deschamps could be left having to decide whether to axe Paul Pogba or Kylian Mbappe for his World Cup squad later this year due to a brewing row between the pair, according to reports in the national press.
The football superstars have always appeared to be friends, but a family feud between Paul Pogba and his brother Mathias has seen Juventus midfielder Paul accused of employing a west African religious figure known as a Marabout to cast a witchcraft spell on Mbappe.
Mathias threatened to make revelations about Paul Pogba, his agent Rafaela Pimenta and Mbappe with videos at the weekend published in English, French, Italian and Spanish.
Reacting to the clips, Paul Pogba then claimed to have been the subject of an extortion attempt which a report from France Info claimed has seen Mathias and Pogba’s childhood friends try to get up to €13 million ($13.02 million) from the ex-Manchester United man.
RMC Sport says that Pogba paid his alleged blackmailers €100,000 ($100,200) to buy time and their silence about the scandal, but Mathias and the rest of the gang wanted the far bigger €13 million sum in exchange for services rendered after supposedly providing Pogba with protection over his 13 year career as a footballer.
Bizarre video from Mathias Pogba (Paul’s Pogba’s brother) where he claims he will reveal some things about his brother Paul, his agent/lawyer Rafaela Pimenta & Kylian Mbappe
pic.twitter.com/TDfoevyVC5— Italian Football News ???????? (@footitalia1) August 28, 2022
Elsewhere in France, it is claimed that Mathias has video evidence of Pogba hiring the Maribout to cast a spell on Mbappe and see him injured.
If the footage exists and comes to light, L’Equipe has suggested that a case “as sordid as it is potentially explosive for Les Bleus” in their attempts to retain the World Cup in Qatar this winter could conclude with Pogba being axed from the national team.
In 2015, a row over a sex tape blackmail plot involving Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena saw both men left out of France’s squad at Euro 2016, where they lost in the final to Portugal, with neither player representing their country again until Benzema was recalled by Deschamps in summer last year.
Pogba is already facing a race against time to recover from an injury he picked up after joining Italian giants Juventus on a free transfer from Manchester United this summer.
According to L’Equipe, though, even if Pogba does arrive to Qatar on time, Deschamps “will have to face the media storm that is expected when an investigation is opened into threats and attempted extortion by an organized gang.”
“With two and a half months to go before the World Cup, Deschamps is facing an explosive situation in which he will have to decide what to do with Pogba. If the facts are proven, he may not be in favor of Pogba,” the sports paper added, while also raising concerns about how the scandal might effect Pogba and Mbappe’s performances on the biggest stage.
Though Pogba might not be fit, both men could be called up for France’s Nations League fixtures against Austria and Denmark in three weeks’ time, which are the last matches before heading to Qatar.
On Monday, Pogba received backing from French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet who declared: “I love Paul. I hope [the scandal] does not call into question his place in the France team.”