Paul Pogba did not play all that well in the final of Euro 2016 on Sunday evening. For reasons best known to the man Eric Cantona famously called a water-carrier, Didier Deschamp, Pogba was assigned a deep-lying holding midfield spot. This succeeded in getting the best out of the free-flowing attacking talents of Moussa Sissoko, though why you would sacrifice one of the world’s best midfielders to get the best out of a man who helped get Newcastle United relegated is a question that will echo through the ages.
Of course, some people took this one-off poor performance—out of position and unable to definitively influence proceedings—as a sign that United were out of their mind to spend the kind of money that reportedly made Real Madrid, that noted bastion of good sense in the transfer market, pull out for economic reasons.
Then there are those who say the Red Devils should baulk at paying a fortune for Pogba because it is embarrassing. Here is a player that we let slip through our fingers, or more accurately booted out of the door in order to make sure Tom Cleverley got plenty of game time. We let him go for free, how can we spend the GDP of a small country to bring him back?
The answer to that question is of course, meh, so what? United have been embarrassing for a long time now, and they will continue to be, so why not cut our losses and sign one of the world’s best midfielders?
The answer to those who say Pogba is not worth the money? Well, that answer is fivefold. Let’s take a look…
Number 5: Transfer Values Have No Absolute Merit When Determining Player Quality
The only thing that defines how much a player is “worth” is the price a club is willing to pay for their services. Football transfers are a market where supply and demand really is king. There’s no metric. There’s no “Well, Cristiano Ronaldo cos £80 million in 2009, so adjust that for inflation and that’s how much the most destructive force in world football is worth.”
In the ever changing landscape of football, fees represent very different things. If a player is super-marketable, sadly, that is borne out in the financial investment it is worth making in them. Pogba comes with plenty of cache on that front. It is not so much that he will sell shirts (though he would), but that he can front marketing campaigns, and boy do United like those.
And, of course, there’s no “well, he’s got 18 for shooting and 15 for vision, so he’s worth £30 million” in real life.
Transfer fees are only a reflection of what a club is prepared to pay for a player. Nothing more, nothing less.
Number 4: Everything Has Changed.
The Premier League television deal, the contract with Adidas, the ugly commercial reality of football at the top level in England is such that the old numbers don’t matter any more. People scoff at the idea of a club spending £30 million on Troy Deeney, but he scored or assisted 20 Premier League goals last season, almost certainly enough to help keep a team in the top flight. And staying in the top flight is a financial prize worth fighting for, so teams will spend a fortune trying to do so.
The Ronaldo metric, or even the more recent Gareth Bale metric, neither of these have nearly as much relevance now as they did a couple of seasons ago. Everything has changed. €120m is the new €60m, or something like that anyway.
Number 3: A Premium Must Be Paid
We’ve had a bad few years. We all know the story, but Moysey and Van Gaal have done their damage and joining United now is a legitimate career risk for a top player. For Pogba, joining Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich is obviously a much lower-risk move, in terms of the trophies he is likely to amass. Let alone United not being in the Champions League this season—an obvious and immediate sacrifice—there is also the fact that no-one knows whether Mourinho will turn things around.
So, basically, this means we cannot afford to go toe-to-toe with Madrid just by fluttering our eyelashes more appealingly at Pogba. Blowing them out of the race by being prepared to offer a ridiculous fee is entirely sensible. Because…
Number 2: Paul Pogba is absolutely brilliant.
Listen, right, Paul Pogba is brilliant. He’s not Messi or Ronaldo— probably the only two players in world football near-guaranteed to make a substantive difference in every single game they participate in. He will have games where he drifts a little, and as Deschamps proved, he needs to have a good deal of freedom to be at his best.
But make no mistake, he is absolutely mint.
He’s been a devastating presence for Juventus in Serie A, which might not be the best standard league in the world but is hardly park football. He was absolutely instrumental in his club’s run to the 2015 Champions League final. He was also instrumental in France’s run to the final of Euro 2016, even if this did not turn out to be a Tournament which was all about him.
But his assist for Antoine Griezzman’s second in the semi-final against Germany was pure magic, pure inspiration, pure Pogba. He has a locker full of tricks, excellent courage on the pitch and is bless with outstanding physical attributes. He would make a tangible difference to United’s midfield options, transforming the kind of football Mourinho is able to play. That kind of player is not easy to find, and they are obviously going to cost a lot of money.
Number 1: Honestly Why Would Any Of Us Even Care?
The only thing United can do wrong in the transfer market is buy players who do not improve the quality of the squad. The Premier League odds would dramatically shorten with him in the squad. Spending too much of the money they make by selling the club’s name to any brand who will stump up the cash on players is really not the problem. After a decade of under-investment, the club is out of the shadow of the danger brought about by the leveraged debt, and can afford to flex its ludicrous financial muscle. Calling for parsimony in the face of the new financial reality seems, frankly, silly. If the price for Pogba is €120m, then so be it. It’s not like they’re going to put season ticket prices up to fund the transfer, or reduce their cost if he doesn’t turn up. We’re paying through the nose for the Premier League product on show at Old Trafford, so it might as well feature some of the world’s best players. Pogba is definitely one of those. His signing—on top of the fine work United have already done in this window—would elevate the club to immediate contenders for the league title this season. Fans of other clubs will no doubt have their say, but they won’t be watching Pogba play for their club and we will, so, you know…
In conclusion, all of this can be summed up by the following two sentences;
Jose, sign him up. Jose, Jose sign him up.