The case of French footballer Paul Pogba explained

A police investigation has been opened after claims by French football star Paul Pogba that he is the victim of a multi-million euro blackmail plot that includes his brother Mathias.

The case of French footballer Paul Pogba explained
Paul Pogba (L) with his brother Mathias Pogba (R), celebrating a goal with his brother Paul Pogba during a friendly match in 2017 (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO / AFP)

The affair involves a family conflict and a witch doctor, and comes less than three months before the Juventus star is expected to help France defend their World Cup crown.

Who is Mathias Pogba?

Mathias, 32, is the elder brother of Paul (29) and the twin brother of Florentin. All three are professional footballers. Mathias, who was born in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, has had a journeyman career which has taken him to Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Slovenia.

Much of his career has been spent in the United Kingdom, including spells at Wrexham, Crewe Alexandra and Partick Thistle. Last year he played 12 matches for Belfort in the French fourth tier. Mathias Pogba has also appeared on television in France as a pundit.

Until recently, the Pogba brothers appeared close-knit. Mathias, Florentin and their mother, Yeo Moriba, have regularly been seen attending France matches in which Paul has played. Paul Pogba is also one of the main donors to 48 H POUR, a charity established by Mathias to help provide drinking water and education for children in Guinea.

What has Mathias Pogba said?

On Saturday, Mathias Pogba published a video on Instagram in which he promised “great revelations” about Paul and the Juventus player’s agent, Rafaela Pimenta. In the video, Mathias Pogba says the “whole world, as well as my brother’s fans, and even more so the French team and Juventus, my brother’s team-mates and his sponsors deserve to know certain things”.

“All this is likely to be explosive,” he concluded without adding any substance to his “revelations”.

How has Paul Pogba responded?

A statement released on Sunday, and signed by Paul Pogba’s lawyers, his mother Yeo Moriba and agent Pimenta, said that the videos published on Saturday night “are unfortunately no surprise”.

“They are in addition to threats and extortion attempts by an organised gang against Paul Pogba,” read the statement. They added that “competent bodies in Italy and France were informed a month ago”.

France Info radio reported that Paul Pogba told investigators he had been threatened by “childhood friends and two hooded men armed with assault rifles”. They are demanding €13 million from him for “services provided”, he said, adding that one person close to him had withdrawn €200,000 using his credit card.

How far along is the investigation?

Paris prosecutors confirmed to AFP that an investigation was opened on August 3 into allegations of extortion and attempted extortion by an organised gang. According to France Info reports confirmed to AFP by a source with knowledge of the case, Paul Pogba told investigators that he had been threatened by “childhood friends and two hooded men armed with assault rifles” who blamed him for not having helped them financially.

Paul Pogba also told investigators that he had been threatened on several occasions in Manchester, during his time playing for Manchester United, and in Turin, where he currently plays for Juventus. He said he recognised his brother Mathias from among the suspects.

What does Kylian Mbappe have to do with this?

The Paris Saint-Germain striker, and France teammate of Paul Pogba, appears reluctantly in the affair. Paul Pogba told investigators that his blackmailers wanted to discredit him by claiming he asked a witch doctor to cast a spell on Mbappe, which Pogba denies.

In a series of tweets published on Sunday, Mathias Pogba appeals directly to Mbappe, saying: “Kylian, do you understand now? I have nothing against you, what I am saying is for your good, everything is true and known, the witch doctor is known! Sorry for this brother, a so-called Muslim up to his neck in witchcraft.”

How could this affect the France team?

The revelation of the affair is badly-timed for the French national team, coming less than three months before they defend their World Cup crown in Qatar. Paul Pogba is currently sidelined with a knee injury and faces a battle to be fully fit, but he remains a key player in the France team, for whom he has won 91 caps and was influential in the run to glory at the 2018 World Cup.

Like the 2016 blackmail affair involving Karim Benzema, Mathieu Valbuena and a sextape, there is a danger that this affair could negatively impact morale within the squad. It could also impact Paul Pogba’s relationship with Mbappe.

Speaking to RMC Sport, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said he hoped the affair “does not call into question” Pogba’s place in the team. “At this stage these are just rumours,” he added.

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Olympics mean no Paris finish for 2024 Tour de France

For the first time since 1905, the Tour de France will not have its usual finish in Paris in 2024, closing instead with a time trial in Nice, organisers announced on Thursday.

Olympics mean no Paris finish for 2024 Tour de France

Although the race has been brought forward one week so as not to clash directly with the Olympic Games, which is being hosted in 2024 by Paris, it will still finish on July 21, just five days before the opening ceremony.

Hence the decision to move the finish to Nice on the southern Mediterranean coast. The city has hosted the Tour 37 times previously with two starts, in 1981 and 2020.

“Nice is a city that shines, it’s known around the world,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP

“There is the beauty of the setting and the mountains nearby. The city offers an exceptional setting and a great course.”

The race will also conclude with an individual time trial for the first time since the legendary finish in 1989 when American Greg Lemond stole the yellow jersey from Frenchman Laurent Fignon, winning by just eight seconds, the smallest margin in history of the Tour.

The first two Tour de France races in 1903 and 1904 both concluded in Ville d’Avray, just outside Paris, but every edition since 1905 has ended in the capital.

Since 1975, that has meant a grand showpiece along the Champs-Elysees.

The race is already slated to return there in 2025.

“We will be delighted to return to Paris and the Champs-Élysées for the 50th anniversary of the first arrival on the Champs in 2025”, said Prudhomme.