If you’ve followed English football in any way over the course of this current Premier League season, then it will have been impossible for you to have missed the Paul Pogba story.
As background to Pogba, he’s a 23 year old, French central midfielder. He started his professional career at Le Havre AC in France, where he established himself as a youth international, before moving to Manchester United in 2009. In the 2011/12 season, Pogba made 3 appearances for Manchester United, and left at the end of the season, to Juventus on a free transfer, after his contract had run out.
Having scored 28 goals in 124 appearances for Juventus, the summer of 2016 saw Pogba return to Manchester United, in what many saw as a “Prodigal Son” moment for the club. It even sparked the social media hashtag “#Pogback”. His departure from Manchester United in 2012 had left a sour taste in the mouth of then-manager Sir Alex Ferguson, so it came as a shock to some that he was returning, at all, to a club which the much-respected Ferguson had said he’d disrespected.
Those who were not shocked by the fact that he was returning, were certainly left dumbfounded by the amount of money that was changing hands. There were plenty of rumours surrounding the amount but the final official figure that came out was £89 million. £89 million. Just to bring him from Turin to Manchester. That’s a whopping £89 million loss for Manchester United by the way. Remember the free transfer? And then there’s his salary on top of that. He reportedly is earning £15.08 million a year to play for Manchester United. That’s as a basic salary too. The money is nothing short of ridiculous and a perfect indicator of what is wrong and continuing to go wrong with football.
Without wanting to sound too much like a set answer on a Football Manager press conference, there is definitely a lot of pressure put on him by the price tag and the huge salary, but he has been repeatedly woeful this season. He has made 38 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United this season, scoring just 7 goals. That’s a haul that you can get away with as an average £10 million midfielder perhaps, but when you cost that much, and all eyes are on you, there is no escape. He put away 34 goals in 178 appearances for Juventus, so his scoring rate hasn’t changed all that much, but again, he was a free midfielder at Juventus, and he’s an £89 million midfielder at Manchester United.
I am by no means a Manchester United fan, despite my father’s best efforts to make me so. I do however like to watch live football whenever I can, and Manchester United find themselves on TV more than most, so chances to watch Pogba in action are relatively commonplace. He just hasn’t impressed me at all. I know my opinion doesn’t count for much. In fact it doesn’t really count for anything football-wise. However, he is just too poor to ignore.
This past weekend against Bournemouth, for my money, Manchester United would have been better without him on the pitch. One needs only look for his scuffed volley (replays of it are not hard to find) coming near to full time to get a pretty good summary of his performance. And that summary can probably be pushed out to cover his whole season.
In his defense, he is still only 23 years old, but that transfer value, coupled with his salary, and mixed in with all the hype, means he simply doesn’t have the development time that, say, Ross Barkley or Romelu Lukaku have enjoyed for Everton. But too bad for him. Hard cheese. He has to be better, or leave.
He is keeping players out of the team who, by rights, should have a place in it. They perform when they come off the bench, for the most part, but in true English football style, and especially in true “Top 4” style, reputation beats form or ability. His name and his story put him in that team. If I were his manager, and obviously I’m not, I’d drop him and put in someone equally, if not more physical, with a fair eye for goal, who has proven Premier League experience and, for the most part, a solid footballing brain. Someone like Marouane Fellaini.
Not so much a case of #Pogback, but #Pogbad.