Kevin Palmer: Why paying £100m for Paul Pogba makes perfect sense to Man United
Manchester United will be buying more than a promising footballer if they hand over £100m to sign Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba this summer - and that explains why this unfathomable transfer makes perfect financial sense to the Old Trafford power brokers.
New United manager Jose Mourinho wasted little time in putting Pogba’s name at the top of his wanted list when he collected the keys of power at Old Trafford last month, with the lavish price tag hanging round the neck of the French international not diluting interest in a deal that will continue to be the big talking point of this summer’s transfer window.
How can a player who failed to impress at Euro 2016 be worth more than any other footballer on the planet? Can Pogba be worth four times more than the entire Leicester team that won the Premier League title last season? Should United spend so much buying back a player they allowed to leave their club for nothing four years ago?
The answers to those questions lie in factors outside away from the football pitch, with this Independent.ie offering an insight into why United are ready to rewrite the transfer rules to complete the transfer of the century.
POGBA THE PLAYER
Former Manchester United hero Rio Ferdinand suggested there was shock among his team-mates when Pogba was allowed to walk away from United back in 2012 following a contract dispute with the club.
Even though he had made just three Premier League appearances for United, the professional eyes who had witnessed his fledgling talents were captivated by the potential of a willowy-legged midfielder who display the potential of a world class performer.
The four years since his departure have seen him realise much of that potential in a Juventus shirt and while he is far from being the finished article at the age of 23, Ferdinand is among those who believes he is now worthy of the vast value placed on his shoulders.
“Pogba is going to be the best midfielder in the world in the next couple of years. He is a leader, who will grow into an even better leader,” Ferdinand told Copa90 earlier this month. “He could be the start of a new generation of football at Manchester United, given that opportunity.”
The notion of paying £100m for a player who you allowed to leave for nothing just four years ago may seem like disastrous business, but Mourinho and his staff are not concerned about the price tag on a player who they believe could enhance their team for years to come.
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POGBA THE BRAND
“You look at surveys and analysis from public relations companies and they all suggest Pogba is one of the most marketable sportsmen in the world right now,” stated former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder Steve McManaman in his Yahoo column. “Make no mistake, that factor now comes in to play when United go after a player like Pogba.”
McManaman’s comments highlight why football clubs are targeting a select band of players for more than just sporting reasons.
Pogba has attracted around 12 million followers on his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, with his image as the face of Adidas another factor encouraging some of the biggest deal makers in sport to push for him move to Old Trafford.
United’s £750m deal with Adidas is one of the driving forces behind a move that will allow Pogba’s next employers to tap into a vast social media reach around the world.
That is just the start of it. Having recently signed a lucrative deal to promote 20th Century Fox movies, United need to spread their digital reach in a bid to satisfy their sponsors, with players like Wayne Rooney and new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic perfect advertising boards for their outside businesses.
“It seems remarkable to even begin to suggest that top football clubs like United or Liverpool sign players based on how many followers they have on Twitter, but it is not as crazy as it sounds,” added McManaman.
“When Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli two summers ago, there were suggestions that his social media activity and his big follower numbers were part of the attraction to complete the deal. As crazy as that sound, this is the way the game is going now.”
CAN A £100m FEE BE JUSTIFIED?
“When you think of a guy working hard in a regular job to bring his two kids along to a Premier League game and then you hear about a club paying £100m for a player, I have to question the sanity of it all,” wrote Ireland goal scoring great John Aldridge in his Sunday World column. “The whole this is indecent in my view. How can a sport that we all fell in love with come to this?”
Many will empathise with Aldridge’s comments, but soccer has long since moved away from its working class roots and into a corporate world that has football as its sideline business.
The sales of Pogba shirts, the social media reach he brings and his status as one of the most marketable athletes in the world make his signature almost more significant that his sporting talents, in the eyes of United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and his Old Trafford deal makers.
Is this a valid reason to pay £100m to sign one solitary footballer? It is for the marketing men running football in 2016 and even if Pogba is not a proven world-class performer to compare to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he could be ‘the next big thing’ and that is what United are buying into.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
Juventus have suggested in recent days that United have yet to make a formal approach to begin negotiations over a deal to sign Pogba, but the player’s agent Mino Raiola is clearly pushing to get his slice of the potential record-breaking deal.
Former United boss Alex Ferguson admitted he “simply didn’t like Raiola” and that is the primary reason why Pogba left United in 2012, but the Old Trafford club’s new top brass featuring Woodward and Mourinho have already done business with the portly agent as they closed deals to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, so now for the big one.
If United back up their posturing over Pogba and put a £100m offer on the table in the coming days, the scale of the transaction would make it tough for Juventus, Raiola and Pogba to walk away from.
There should be a note of caution, as United have made similarly lavish transfer moves in recent years as they tried to sign Sergio Ramos, Neymar and Thomas Muller, with those efforts ending in abject failure.
Yet while those A-list players were never likely to leave their clubs, the Pogba deal can be made if United back up their ambition with a cash offer that would shatter the £86m world record transfer fee that Real Madrid paid to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham in 2013.
Woodward’s shoddy track record in his transfer dealings must put a question mark over this transfer, but any player is available if the price is right.
United are about to test that theory as they look to re-sign Paul Pogba.