Just a few months after the closure of the infamous ‘sex tape’ blackmail case that dogged the French national team for years, French football was once again gripped by allegations of scandal and blackmail in relation to one of the French game’s leading figures this weekend.
Juventus and France midfielder Paul Pogba’s brother Mathias, also a professional footballer, made startling accusations against Paul during a video on social media. Mathias claimed he was about to report major revelations about his brother, PSG and France striker Kylian Mbappé and agent Rafaela Pimenta. This was followed by an official communiqué from Paul Pogba’s camp, affirming that the ex-Manchester United man was currently the subject of a blackmail attempt.
It has since been confirmed that French prosecutors have opened an investigation into the possible attempted blackmail by an organised gang after Paul informed police that his brother has been part of a concerted effort to blackmail him for €13m. Mathias then took to social media to claim that the media was attempting to spin things and that his brother has lied to Italian authorities.
As reported by France Info, during various interviews with authorities, Paul explained he was trapped in an apartment by childhood friends and two hooded men armed with assault rifles in an incident in Paris during the March international break earlier this year, who demanded €13m from him. The gang, reports Paul, has intimidated him several times since, including in April in Manchester and at the Juventus training centre in Turin, where he told the police that he recognised his brother Mathias among the suspects.
Between March 25th and 29th, the French national team hosted Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa in friendly matches and Paul Pogba took the opportunity to visit his family in Lagny-sur-Marne. Friends are then alleged to have dragged him to an apartment in Paris, where they blamed him for not helping them financially since he became a professional player while demanding the €13m for ‘services rendered’, claiming that they had protected him discreetly for 13 years. Despite reports of a difficult relationship between the Pogba brothers, L’Équipe affirm that until the end of March, Mathias and Paul were on good terms as Paul attended an event organised by Mathias’ charity.
After the episode at the Juventus training ground, Paul approached club lawyers who notified police. However, RMC later reported that Pogba initially paid the gang €100,000, a figure well short of their demands, in a bid to buy time and try and satisfy them, but to no avail.
During police interviews, the 29-year-old explained to investigators from the Central Directorate of the Judicial Police that he had always been close to his childhood friends and that he had never hesitated to help them financially when they were in the need. Until last January at least, when he kicked a friend out of his house in Manchester having realised he’d used his credit card to steal €200,000 while staying with him.
Investigators, according to the outlet, understand Kylian Mbappé is linked to the affair only through Paul Pogba mentioning that his blackmailers wanted to discredit him and thus put further pressure on him to pay up by spreading false messages including that he would have asked a witch doctor from inside his family circle to cast a spell on Mbappé, which the player denied to be true.
Mathias then responded to the allegations against him reported by France Info via social media:
“What I expected to happen has happened: my little brother is finally starting to show his true face. Since it was he who started talking, to lie to the police and who brought out the information, you can’t blame me. Paul, you really wanted to shut me up completely, to lie and send me to prison – I suspected it. Now it’s true. My version of the facts actually happened and, unlike you, I have enough to prove my words and your lies. I’ll tell you again brother – manipulating people is not good! It’s not about money. You implicated me in spite of myself, I almost died because of you, you left me in a hole and you want to play the innocent one? When everything is said, people will see that there is no bigger coward, bigger traitor and bigger hypocrite than you on this earth. Kylian, now do you understand? I have no negative feeling toward you, my words are for your good, everything is true and proven, the witch doctor is known! Sorry about this brother, a so-called Muslim deep in witchcraft, it’s never good to have a hypocrite and a traitor near you!”
Meanwhile, France manager Didier Deschamps and FFF president Noël Le Graët were made aware of the case before the story was made public in the last few days. Paul decided to forego major knee surgery earlier this summer after an injury during a Juventus training session that would have kept him out of the World Cup, instead choosing a faster and more risky method of recovery to try and make the tournament in Qatar. Now, Deschamps is worried about the effect the affair will have on one of his key players’ state of mind, should he be fit to play this November.
The spectre of the long-running sex tape saga surrounding Karim Benzema – which greatly affected the France camp, also hangs over Deschamps. Considering the historically fractious nature of the France squad, Mathias Pogba’s allegations that Paul used a witch doctor to ‘put a spell’ on Mbappé could lead to new divisions, despite Deschamps’ long efforts to prioritise harmony above all else. With just three months to go until the World Cup, Les Bleus could be on the verge of fracturing 12 years after their last major social breakdown at a World Cup in South Africa, which included the team refusing to train and the squad being banned by the FFF for the following game against Norway.
Perhaps most worryingly for Deschamps, L’Équipe report that talk of video evidence has been circulating within the France squad in recent days. The sports daily also note that although Paul and Mbappé are far from close, it’s surprising that Pogba didn’t call the PSG man directly to give his version of events. Mbappé, meanwhile, who was also made aware of the story before Mathias’ initial video, is said to be keeping an eye on the case with his entourage from a distance. He could, however, could take action should proof of Mathias’ claims come to light. It’s an explosive situation just two months before the World Cup for Les Bleus and Deschamps fears the derailing of French hopes of defending their title.