Paul Pogba claims to be the victim of an extortion attempt by his brother, who has accused him of adopting witchcraft
In a bizarre and worrying development that threatens to derail France's defense of its World Cup title in Qatar later this year, Paul Pogba has fallen out with his brother Mathias, with their clash grabbing headlines over the weekend.
Here, we explain what lies behind the controversy.
Who's involved in the scandal?
Juventus and France World Cup winner Paul Pogba, 29, and his fellow but far less accomplished professional footballer brother Mathias, 32, who most recently played for French fourth-tier club Belfort.
Plus, childhood friends of Pogba's, while the name of his Les Bleus teammate, Kylian Mbappe, has also come up.
How did the scandal appear?
It seemingly came out of nowhere over the weekend when Mathias released videos in English, Spanish, French and Italian, and threatened to make
"big revelations" about brother Paul, his agent Rafaela Pimenta and PSG star Mbappe. Mathias Pogba claimed on Saturday. "The whole world deserves to know certain things so the public can decide if [Paul Pogba] really deserves the admiration, the respect, his place in the France team, if he is a trustful person and worth representing the world's youth, working-class areas and big brands,"
Furthermore, he questioned Pimenta's
"integrity and professionalism," with Paul Pogba viewing the Brazilian "like a second mother" as the lawyer-turned-agent that has carried on Mino Raiola's business after the Italian passed away aged 54 in April. What has Paul Pogba said in response?
Alongside his mother, Yeo Moriba, and Pimenta, Pogba released a statement on Sunday saying that the
"recent declarations of Mathias Pogba on social media are unfortunately not a surprise."
"They are coming after threats and attempts of extortion by an organized gang against Paul Pogba," he added, explaining further that the matter was referred to the appropriate authorities both in Italy and in France a month ago. Simultaneously, more details emerged on the extortion attempt with a report from France Info claiming Pogba has told officials that he was "trapped by childhood friends and two hooded men armed with assault rifles" in March.
The gang reportedly requested €13 million ($13.03 million) in cash from Pogba after they accused him of not helping his friends out. They also
"dragged him to an apartment in Paris" and wanted to be paid for services rendered for having supposedly provided him with protection for 13 years.
The same article says that Pogba explained to the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police how he had always remained close to the childhood friends he grew up with in the Paris suburbs and had never hesitated to help them out whenever in need.
That was until January this year, however. While still at Manchester United, Pogba reportedly had to kick one friend out of his home when realizing he had used Pogba's credit card to allegedly steal €200,000 ($200,000) from him.
How did Pogba's brother react?
Sharing the France Info article on Twitter, Mathias
descended into a multi-post rant where he said that what he expected had happened with Paul Pogba beginning to show "his true face." "Since it was he who started talking to lie to the police and who brought out the info, you can't blame me," Mathias expanded. "Paul, you really wanted to shut me up completely [and] lie [to] send me to prison," Mathias said while addressing his younger sibling directly. He went on to brand his brother a "coward, traitor and hypocrite" while claiming that the row was not about money.
Then turning his attention to France teammate Mbappe, Mathias asked:
"Kylian, now do you understand?" Mathias also said. "I have nothing negative against you, my words are for your [own] good, everything is true and proven, the marabout is known!"
The 'marabout' comment was seemingly a reference to a traditional African religious figure often believed to have magical powers, with the Pogba family hailing from Guinea.
"Sorry for this brother, a so-called Muslim deep in witchcraft. It's never good to have a hypocrite and a traitor near you!" Mathias signed off. Are the police involved?
On Monday afternoon, the Associated Press
confirmed that French prosecutors are investigating the extortion attempt allegations by Pogba against Mathias and their childhood friends.
The Paris Prosecutor's Office revealed that it had opened an investigation earlier this month with anti-corruption police looking into attempted organized extortion.
With less than three months to spare until Qatar 2022, it remains to be seen whether Pogba can recover from a knee injury and play as well as he did at Russia 2018, or whether his mind will be elsewhere.
Furthermore, scrutiny will be placed on how the shocking claims affect his friendship with Mbappe.
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