Football: Pogba deal turns tide

By Martin Samuel

Paul Pogba takes centre stage at United training. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Pogba takes centre stage at United training. Photo / Getty Images

As British presenters were discussing the sports news, they gushed about how Great Britain was doing on the Olympics medal table.

With the mention of football, however, the mood changed.

Now cynicism ruled. They asked: how was Paul Pogba worth 89 million ($160 million)? No case came for the defence.

Nobody countered that with Premier League revenue measured in billions, fees and wages were relative. Nobody cited examples from the entertainment industry, film star salaries or the contracts given to TV personalities. It was just left there, this mystery, this waste.

"A different world," a presenter concluded, sagely. And, indeed, it is because this off-season Manchester United changed it.

In securing Pogba, they reversed a flow that had run in one direction since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009.

Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez may be gone, Neymar and Gonzalo Higuain stayed away, but English football no longer loses the best players to Spain.

Not all of them, anyway.

It does not matter for now whether Pogba is worthy of his fee. He was not expected to be here. United have got English football back in the game. Where Pogba leads, others may follow.

Plainly, this wasn't United's motive. We all know who they care for at Old Trafford, and it isn't the rest - but undeniably the signing of Pogba is a statement of significance.

United even had to take a gulp at the thought of recruiting a player who left the club for next to nothing in 2012.

He wanted to go and, at the time, the majority agreed with Sir Alex Ferguson's refusal to entertain his wage demands. So credit to them for swallowing their pride. It would have been easy to make a half-hearted bid, and conveniently miss out.

Players of Pogba's calibre go to Barcelona or Real Madrid, at a push Bayern Munich. No matter the money on offer, this was supposed to be a battle United could not win. Yet they pushed it all the way.

Pogba, remember, has signed for a Europa League club - for this season, at least. Manchester United's spending may be designed to ensure they do not finish outside the top four again, but it will be September 2017 at the earliest before Pogba gets his next taste of Champions League football proper and that, alone, was considered enough to sabotage any deal.

Instead, a combination of ambition, ego, unfinished business, financial incentive, Jose Mourinho and the promise that this Manchester United team would be constructed around his presence, convinced Pogba to return to Old Trafford.

The implementation of that plan will have to wait until next weekend, with Pogba suspended for United's first game tonight (NZT) against Bournemouth.

It will build the suspense for supporters.

The fans love the emergence of young players like Marcus Rashford, but also wish to see the greats of the game wearing red.

After all, if the best players are only in La Liga, why not just watch La Liga?

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward feels it's United's duty to resist Spain's supremacy by signing Pogba, or star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

So, it is easy to be cynical, to view the Premier League as a money monster, and the recruitment of Pogba as its worst excess.

But it isn't. In its own way, the signing alone is success. And, by the way, Olympic medals hardly come cheaply. Daily Mail

- Herald on Sunday

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