At first glance, Adrien Rabiot’s CV is mightily impressive. Here is a physically dominant 27-year-old midfielder, in his prime, who has earned 29 caps for France and won multiple trophies there and in Italy. A player who has made more than 100 appearances for Juventus and more than 200 for Paris Saint-Germain.
Given Manchester United’s obvious need for midfield reinforcements, what is not to like? Well, it does not take a huge amount of digging beneath the surface to find out.
For while Rabiot is unquestionably talented, he also comes with baggage. More specifically, he comes with a history of disciplinary issues, a reputation for being a notorious “bad boy” and has a controversial mother who is rarely far from the headlines.
It should be fun to watch, at least, if United do complete a deal for the player. Rabiot is now in the final year of his contract at Juventus and his quality as a footballer, when he is fully committed, is not in doubt.
It is the off-field antics that will set alarm bells ringing with United’s supporters, especially as Erik ten Hag attempts to transform the internal culture at Old Trafford.
Such is the list of controversies involving Rabiot, and his mother Veronique, that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps the best place is the 2018 World Cup, which France won. Rabiot was not involved, after refusing to be on the standby list. According to reports in France, he had emailed coach Didier Deschamps to inform him he would not be able to follow the required training programme.
The decision did little for Rabiot’s already damaged reputation in France, where he had clashed with PSG’s supporters earlier in his career: he was booed by his own fans in 2015 after threatening to force a move away. In 2019, he was suspended by PSG after being spotted in a nightclub following a Champions League defeat by United. Earlier that season he had been dropped for lateness.
Veronique is a hugely influential presence. She represents the midfielder in all negotiations and once furiously confronted Laurent Blanc, the former PSG manager, in the car park at the club’s training ground. Last summer, when France were knocked out of the European Championship by Switzerland, she reportedly clashed with the families of Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba in the stands.
On the pitch, Rabiot (who spent a few months with Manchester City’s youth team) has struggled with inconsistency since joining Juventus in 2019. “You have never seen the real Rabiot,” he said of his time at the club earlier this year. United will no doubt hope to see a different player on the pitch, and none of the usual controversy off it.