The ever-running transfer story of the summer finally reached its conclusion on Monday night as Manchester United announced the signing of French midfielder Paul Pogba for a new world record transfer fee. While most people seems intent on discussing the fee, we take a look at why this represents nothing short of a truly fantastic deal for Manchester United and Pogba himself.
Everyone knows the story of Paul Pogba coming through United’s academy to knock on the first-team door but Sir Alex Ferguson not granting him the game time he thought he deserved resulted in the player leaving the club on a free transfer in 2012 to join Italian giants Juventus. Under the guidance of Antonio Conte and Max Allegri, Pogba developed into one of the most highly sought after players in world football and after four years in Turin has now completed his move back to Manchester. When he returns he does that for the highest transfer fee ever, but it’s a fee that will be well-invested money for United.
A new superstar for United’s commercial empire
Since Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester for Madrid in 2009, Wayne Rooney has been the symbol of United and the only superstar they’ve had. The problem with this has been the fact Rooney’s quality has decreased season by season but United haven’t been able to get rid of him, and under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal they haven’t been able to attract the type of star to come into the club and replace Rooney as the main man. With Pogba, this all changes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic came in this summer too, but he isn’t expected to stay for long. Pogba is 23, has signed a five-year contract and Mourinho’s team will undoubtedly be built around the Frenchman. Pogba has developed into one of the most marketable athletes in the world and, as an additional plus, he is represented by Adidas, United’s main sponsor. So in Pogba, United have one of the most popular footballers in the world with the potential to develop into one of the absolute best on the pitch as well as off it, and someone to use as a base for their marketing and commercial empire.
Furthermore, by paying a new world record fee, Pogba will attract even more talk and make his ‘brand’ even bigger. United nowadays is as much business as it is football, and Paul Pogba is Ed Woodward’s dream. The money paid for the midfielder will be recouped in sponsorship money in the coming months, possibly even in the next few weeks. His arrival lessens the importance of Rooney which means if his form continues to wane, he can be sold off with the replacement already at the club.
The perfect platform for Pogba
Many question Pogba’s motives for the move, as he leaves a Juventus he has helped win the Serie A four seasons in a row, a Juventus that has strengthened over the summer with the aim of winning the Champions League. United aren’t even in the Champions League this season, with many therefore accusing Pogba for chasing money over success. Whilst it’s true Pogba makes a lot more money at United than he did at Juventus, he wants to become the biggest player around. Not just the best, but the most famed. United provide that platform, Juventus never could. It’s not their fault, but the issue is United is one of the most famed and popular clubs in the world and they play in the Premier League, the richest and most watched league around. United might not play Champions League football this season, but with the signings they’ve made, with the manager they’ve got and with total focus on the league this season, does anyone really think they’ll miss out on it for another year?
The perfect signing for Mourinho
Mourinho has been shaping his squad this summer with some really good new additions, but Pogba should be the last piece of the puzzle. In all the hype about the Frenchman, it’s easy to forget he is a footballer first and foremost, and a tremendous one at that. Pogba is nearly a perfect player. His physique is impeccable, he resembles an NBA player more than a footballer, and his power, speed and agility will improve a quite rigid United massively. Technically, he is one of the best around, with the type of touch even the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would approve of. His close control, passing technique, dribbling and shooting is close to perfection. Additionally, he is also a leader and a winner, two things severely lacking at United since Ferguson’s retirement. In his time at Juventus, he won the league in all four of his seasons at the club, starring in all four campaigns. He also helped bring them to the Champions League final in 2015 where they pushed a brilliant Barcelona all the way, and he was key in the French team that reached the Euro 2016 final on home soil. While the latter two ended in disappointment, Pogba has consistently showed he doesn’t shirk a challenge. The only question mark surrounding Pogba the player is his tactical understanding, but Mourinho is the perfect coach to improve that and make Pogba the complete package.
So how will he use him? Most likely it will start out with Pogba as the more attacking midfielder in the double pivot of Mourinho’s trusted 4-2-3-1, similar to the role Cesc Fabregas played for Mourinho at Chelsea. This might not be the way to get everything out of Pogba though, as he thrives given the freedom he was at Juventus. A dynamic 4-3-3 with Pogba on the left of the three man midfield would be the perfect scenario for Pogba, and therefore also for United as the midfielder arrives as United’s already best player (sorry Zlatan). It’s also important to once again highlight Pogba’s physical attributes as he, along with Ibrahimovic and Bailly significantly raises United’s physical power, which will be needed in the battle for the Premier League title. Expect United to score more goals from set pieces this season than in the three previous combined.
Pogba will increase United’s threat from set pieces.
United’s signing of Paul Pogba makes all the sense in the world for both club, player and manager. United have a new superstar to centre their marketing and commercial approach around, José Mourinho has been given one of the most complete players in football and Pogba will be the main man at one of the world’s most famous clubs. It’s a win-win for all parties and the transfer fee is almost irrelevant. Pogba’s arrival lessens the reliance on Wayne Rooney, who should be the man Pogba replaces both on the pitch and off it, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Pogba replace Rooney as the captain in a few years. Pogba is a leader and a winner, and that’s exactly what United need.
Pogba seemed genuinely happy to be back in Manchester judging by his first interview, where he repeatedly said he was coming ‘home’. This is another factor not taken into a account, Pogba is basically an academy product who ‘gets’ United and the supporters. Yes, the most expensive academy product ever but who really cares if Pogba drives through midfield with the ball at his feet before unleashing a 30-yard thunderbolt to clinch the Premier League title?
Manchester United needs Paul Pogba, and Paul Pogba wants Manchester United. Now he’s home, it’s time for Pogba to bring the Premier League trophy back too.