Paul Pogba swoop heralds power shift to Manchester United
Jose Mourinho has launched a fresh assault on Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp over their criticism of Manchester United's move for Paul Pogba by claiming the Arsenal and Liverpool managers cannot contemplate breaking the world transfer record because they are not at big enough clubs.
United finally completed the £89m signing of Pogba yesterday - four years after losing the France midfielder to Juventus for just £800,000 in compensation - as they beat Real Madrid to his signature.
The deal, which eclipses the previous world record fee of £85.3m that Real paid Spurs for Wales forward Gareth Bale in 2013, was described as a "watershed moment" for the Premier League by Gary Lineker.
The former England captain's view is shared by United's hierarchy, who believe it could signal a shift of power in the transfer market after years of losing out to the Spanish giants.
United's capture of Pogba came on the same day Manchester City made John Stones the world's most expensive defender by signing the England centre-half for £47.5m from Everton as Pep Guardiola and Mourinho took their combined summer spending past £300m in a huge statement of intent from the Manchester rivals.
Arsenal manager Wenger had branded as "completely crazy" United's move for Pogba - who has signed a five-year contract with the option of a further 12 months - and Klopp claimed he would walk away from football before spending that sort of money.
But days after condemning their criticism as "unethical", Mourinho renewed his attack on the pair by belittling the size of the clubs they manage.
"I like everything (about Pogba)," the United manager said. "I know the discussion, I understand that sometimes in football things happen and the club breaks the record, but this is only possible at clubs like Man United.
"When I heard some of the comments and heard some of the managers criticising that, I don't think they ever have this problem because, to have this problem, you need to be at one of the top clubs in the world. So at Man United it can happen.
"We need to get the best out of him and this will be a process. So if he needs protection, I am here to protect."
Having lost out to Real for Bale in 2013, Toni Kroos the year after and Karim Benzema in 2009 - the same summer as Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford for the Bernabeu - as well as seeing Ronaldinho and David Villa snub their advances in favour of joining Barcelona, United believe Pogba's decision to reject Real's advances could prove a turning point in the flow of players away from Spain's top two clubs and back towards English football's elite.
Lineker suggested as much on Twitter yesterday when he described Pogba's move as the "first time a huge foreign star in his prime has come to England" and, fuelled by the "wealth" triggered by the Premier League's new £8.3bn television deal, said "more of the greats will come here and not just to Barca and Real Madrid".
The Match of the Day presenter's remarks have resonated with senior officials at United, who also cite goalkeeper David de Gea's decision to spurn Real's advances this summer in order to stay at the club as another significant development.
Given that Real had won the European Cup in May, are managed by Pogba's compatriot and idol Zinedine Zidane, were ready to break the bank to sign him with a transfer embargo looming for allegedly breaching rules governing the signing of players under 18, and that United had no Champions League football to offer this season, the Red Devils believe the signing was a huge coup.
Although United's interest in Pogba went back three years, Mourinho's predecessors David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were understood to be wary about spending such a huge amount on a single player.
The transfer took two months to complete from start to finish and was complicated by image rights and tax issues primarily, as well as a series of clauses in Pogba's contract that were stipulated by the player's agent, Mino Raiola, whom Ed Woodward, United's executive vice chairman, had made it his business to meet in 2013.
Of the £89m fee paid to Juventus, Raiola is expected to receive up to £27.6m from the Italian club in addition to a fee from United for negotiating the terms of Pogba's Old Trafford contract.
Woodward spent hours upon hours thrashing out the complexities of the deal with Raiola and the agent's lawyer, Rafaela Pimenta, although there were just two face-to-face meetings with Juventus late in the negotiations.
Pogba's arrival will hasten the departure of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is understood to be attracting interest from English clubs as well as a number of foreign ones, including AC Milan and Inter Milan. United do not believe Schweinsteiger's £150,000-a-week wages will be an obstacle to a sale after he was banished by Mourinho.
Adnan Januzaj is expected to leave on loan, with Sunderland in firm pursuit of the Belgium winger. (© Daily Telegraph, London)