He is not a 100 million guy. He is Paul Pogba.
While the media is going bizarre with Paul Pogba’s poor run of form and how his absurd transfer fee is set to look more ridiculous, here is Debojyoti Chakraborty taking a different view on the situation
Football is team game played by eleven players. Someone scores, someone concedes. Someone provides an assist, someone runs the show. But it is Paul Pogba who is receiving the criticism. Always. Especially if Manchester United is playing. Or does that even matter?
Since the surreal era of Sir Alex Ferguson came to an end, there has been a cycle of events at Manchester United. Appointment of a new manager with high hopes, humongous spending on players, dreadful performance on the pitch, sacking of the manager, sidelining or mass exits of players – some of them bought just a season ago. The cycle has repeated itself thrice in last three seasons. Things have become a little spicier this time and the main reason behind that is a boy named Paul Pogba.
A youth academy graduate from the club, Pogba was released on a free transfer (almost, £800,000 notwithstanding) to Juventus in the summer of 2012. Termed as the biggest blunder by the Scot – ahead of Jaap Stam fiasco – Pogba then went on to establish himself as one of the most exciting young talents in the world football. So much so that some earmarked him as the first Ballon d’Or winner post the Messi-Ronaldo era. In the same time period, thing became bad to worse at Manchester United. Always hailed as a club not full of superstars but banking on the synergy of a bunch of committed individuals, the Red Devils started spending outrageously in the transfer market. Most of their purchases were seen as panic buy, quite heavily over-priced and still devoid of any established superstars. Still, the Red Devils continued to flex their financial muscle and selling clubs kept on extorting as much as they could from a glory hunting desperate club.
Last season ended on a not so unfamiliar note for Manchester United. Even the FA Cup win was not enough to cover up for their failure to secure a Champions League spot, let alone posing a strong title challenge. So the board again hired a new coach – this time a long time candidate Jose Mourinho – and again splashed the cash. Pogba became talk of the town in Manchester and a world record transfer fee of € 100 million later – the first for an English club in the last couple of decades, he became the new #6 for the Red Devils. The tall lanky fellow had made his name in Turin for being an irresistible force, a tank to be precise. Very often deployed in a three-man midfield, he used be slotted alongside a defensive fulcrum and a midfield engine. Demands at Manchester are a little bit more, but they are simple – be the defensive shield, be the box-to-box engine, be combative in key midfield battles, be the ball playing midfield maestro, be a source for important goals and assists. Simple, with a new connotation!!!
The hell broke loose. Every sneak peak of the lad, every movement of him on and off the pitch started getting analyzed under the banner of €100 million. United started off well in the league campaign with a 100% record from their opening three fixtures. But the early shine wearied off with three defeats in a week, starting with the derby loss against Manchester City. Pogba did not help himself as he was one of the worst performers in these three outings. Social media went berserk with troll posts. Even the so called pundits did not spare him. It is alright to criticize a player for poor display but is it fair to evaluate a player on the basis of his transfer fee?
Manchester United has been a state of unrest since the departure of Sir Alex. He had that uncanny knack of extracting that much more from average players what they themselves could not have believed. A monopoly over English Premier Legaue without breaking the bank gave the club an unmatched identity. But the great Scot should not escape criticism for leaving the club in a shambolic state. Seven transfer windows after he has left, the club is still struggling to ship out the dead wood and form a new nucleus for the team. Agreed that the managers since Sir Alex and the board’s clueless shopping had their true share of blame, but what can one do when the whole team had to be changed? It takes time to form a new team. But in today’s time of instant success, time is the most precious commodity. That is why a certain Paul Pogba will be judged after every match – is he worth €100 million? That is why his every movement will be put under the scanner – is he overpriced? People forget that Pogba did not set a price tag on himself. 100 million is just the valuation of Manchester United’s desperation, Juventus’ nerve of still to keep on asking for more, and Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola’s negotiation skills.
Pogba’s valuation as on July, 2016 in the renowned Transfermarket site stands at €70 million. Definitely a prized asset, but still quite far from his eventual transfer fee of 100 million. So, if anyone, Manchester United’s board should be accused of overpaying. But should they really be? It is simple demand-supply equation – one has to pay more if the commodity is scarcely available in the market. More than a solid central midfielder, the club needed a young (Pogba is still only 23) world class marketable figure signing whom could lure more sponsors to Old Trafford. There was hardly anyone more suitable than Pogba. Manchester United realized that and went all out for him. More importantly, Juventus realized that and kept a poker face to extract as much as they could. Besides that, it is the club’s own money. They have money to spend, they are (over)spending it. It might seem as complete madness, but the rich do these weird kind of stuffs. How about media then? How would it have felt had we been constantly judged on the basis of our transactions on our credit cards? How would a furniture “feel” if it constantly cursed of being overprices? And Pogba is no furniture! He is human who is feeling the pressure of being sold for a world-record fee. A huge honour is starting to take its toll on the lanky fellow. Last game against Watford showed glimpses that he is starting to lose his temper.
It is simple demand-supply equation – one has to pay more if the commodity is scarcely available in the market.
Football is a team game. Hardly ever a single person has been able to change the fortune of a team. Every Diego Maradona needed the likes of Jorge Burruchagas to win the World Cup, every Lionel Messi needed the likes of Xavis to become what he has been today. Pogba will need an able support cast around him to shine and fulfill his promise. Beyond his own game, Pogba will have to carry Manchester United on his shoulders. If either of them fails, critics will be ready to pounce on him. Things are even trickier for Pogba as he will never be high up there in the goals or assists chart – an easy parameter for everyone to judge success or failure. The Facebook generation will not go easy on him. Sadly, that is the demand of the time – he will have to fight his opponents in the field for 90 minutes only, but he will have to keep on fighting with his own 100 million price tag all the time. A tag he did not want, but a tag he will have to bear. Forever.
Every Diego Maradona needed the likes of Jorge Burruchagas to win the World Cup, every Lionel Messi needed the likes of Xavis to become what he has been today. Pogba will need an able support cast around him to shine and fulfill his promise.
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