It has been the biggest transfer deal of the summer. Quite frankly, the whole Paul Pogba saga is starting to border on dull, just as every single big transfer does. It is the whole agent leaks link, player wants move, press go delirious, we all talk about it for four weeks and then it eventually either happens or it doesn’t. It is recipe we are all familiar with, not actually that fond of, but it still, somehow, makes us feel content with life. A little like the spaghetti Bolognese your mother has been serving you since you were a child.
There has been a huge myth created around the idea of the Frenchman ‘returning home’ to Manchester. Let’s be honest, that is going a bit too far. This is player born in France and nurtured at Le Harve, who then supposedly ditched the French club for more cash despite having an agreement in place with his boyhood side to stay on for a longer period. He then spent three years at Old Trafford, making just seven appearances and agreeing a move to Juventus behind the club’s back. That left Sir Alex Ferguson furious with his behaviour and almost relieved to see him go.
He’s a man constantly trying to better his career and his wage packet. There is nothing wrong with that, it is baffling that people seem to baulk at players taking another job for more money, but murmurings of this being some sort of prodigal return are an utter fairy tale.
The fee. £100m. In this candy cane, e-number laden, gluttonous dystopia that is the modern day transfer market it seems that numbers now don’t really mean anything. But that much money for a player yet to develop and show his full potential is astronomical.
The haircuts, the tuxedo, the eyewear, the clothes. The image that Pogba has created, paired with his immense, albeit inconsistently displayed, skill have seen the Juve midfielder somehow see his name mentioned alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, which is laughable. Such is the modern world and media, Pogba is a man who can look immense in snapshots of games, because he is, but his overall contribution is not representative to the praise and idolisation that he is lavished with on a regular basis. He is overrated.
Take his showing at the Euros. People got excited when he put in a decent cross against Germany, hit some long range shots against Switzerland and scored a header against Iceland but in all honesty, he did little else. He needs freedom and if asked to play in a rigid system he struggles to have an impact on matches, becomes hugely frustrated and does the wrong things too regularly. Not once did he take charge of a match this summer and dictate the play or change the game. He didn’t enhance his reputation. People talk of performing on the grandest stage, Pogba did not. To be considered alongside great players and command such huge fees, should a player not have that in his locker?
United fans should also have reservations about where he actually fits in at the club. His better performances come when he is given a free role or played as a number 10. It appears that the position in behind the striker will rightly go to Henrikh Mkhitraryan, Wayne Rooney is also likely to be in contention for the role behind Zlatan. So where would that leave the 23-year-old? Most probably in a deeper central midfield berth, somewhere where he has less impact on the game resulting in frustrated displays that see him try to be all things to all men. It leads to him compromising his game, reducing the impact of the qualities he possesses.
The question of ego and pressure is another that will need answering. Pogba went into the Euros under a great deal of pressure and he flopped, struggling to cope with what was expected of him. A £100m transfer would arguably bring with it even more stresses. Mourinho has already added the world’s most egotistical footballer in Ibrahimovic and has a rather sizeable opinion of himself. That combination has worked well before but throw in the confident Pogba and it has the potential to be a toxic mix.
There is no doubt there is an immense amount of talent there. He has everything needed to be one of the world’s best but he isn’t there yet. Something that he himself doesn’t seem to have come to terms with. He’s a footballer obsessed the aesthetics but at times neglecting of the basics and if he continues to believe his own hype it is hard to see how he can develop into the player he could be. On regular occasions he looks to be a player who just wants the ball all to himself, he’s like the big kid in the playground who refuses to pass it and then half the time makes the wrong decision. Just because one dribble around three players created a goal once, it doesn’t mean you need do it on every occasion.
The biggest task for Jose Mourinho will be getting the idea through to Pogba that he needs to constantly get better, if he accepts that he is not world class then he can become world class.