Last summer, Juventus lost Arturo Vidal, who packed up and moved to Bayern Munich; Carlos Tévez, who returned home to Boca Juniors and warmer climes; and Andrea Pirlo, who moved to New York to grill strip steaks (tempeh?) and lodge some valid complaints about how panicky the play in MLS tends to be. It all came right after the club’s run to the Champions League Final, so Juve CEO Giuseppe Marotta’s insistence that his star midfielder Paul Pogba was not for sale at any price made sense.
This summer, Marotta declared again that the club would be keep its talisman, but this time it’s a little harder to believe. Juventus recently picked up two central midfielders — Miralem Pjanic from Roma and Mario Lemina from Marseille, both of whom seem like hedges against Pogba’s eventual exit from Turin. What’s more, Manchester United — who have plenty of money but no Champions League football to tempt previously rumored targets like Gareth Bale, Neymar, or Thomas Muller — have come knocking again. United executive vice chairman and director Ed Woodward desperately wants to sign a big star who’s in his prime, and he’s willing to pay full sticker price.
With the tea leaves suggesting that Juventus might be open to Pogba’s departure, and with Manchester United apparently willing to break the bank, the next question is whether Paul Pogba is actually worth the rumored 100 million–pound price tag, which would make him the highest-paid player in the history of soccer.
As both a United fan and a person that worries about Pogba like he’s related to me, the following is a fair and balanced consideration of these stupid, dumb concerns:
So, what about that Euro 2016 performance?
Even the casual observer who knows Pogba only as That Tall, Lanky Guy With the Cool Hair could look at France’s Euro 2016 campaign and come away with the notion that the 23-year-old is wildly overrated. And true enough, he wasn’t regularly making an impact on games at the Euros.
But here’s the thing: That was mostly Didier Deschamps’s fault.
Among a host of missteps — like putting leg irons on Dimitri Payet and Antoine “Fly Shit Only” Griezmann in the knockout stages — the France manager deployed Pogba too deep for him to thrive, and sat him next to Blaise Matuidi. That two-man center looks choice in “Team Management” on FIFA, but in practice, they settled into duplicate roles. The team might have performed a bit better with that lineup, but it’s kind of hard to shine when your costar is doing your same dance moves and the rest of the people that are supposed to be harmonizing with you are singing off-key.
Why not take that 100 million and spend it on two or three quality players, rather than blowing it all on one?
You wouldn’t miss out on a retro-Jordan drop and then spend that money on two or three pairs of Team Jordans, so stop that shit right now.
Still! One hundred million is a lot of money.
It’s not like you’re the one that’s spending it.
Besides, Pogba —when used correctly, Didier — is a generation-defining talent. At just 23, he’s already one of the best in the world at his position, capable of sorcery when given the freedom to bomb up and down the pitch as he pleases. Some critics may cast aspersions on him, crying inconsistency and claiming that he’s simply a string of flashes of brilliance, but those flashes of brilliance make up for any misplaced passes or silly fouls. And why wouldn’t you bet on José Mourinho to cure Pogba of his streakiness and turn him into a Ballon d’Or–winner ad nauseum?
Plus, when was the last time the most sought-after transfer target went to a team in the Premier League, instead of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, or Real Madrid? Pogba to United would be an emblematic transaction — compared with a handful of lesser deals — both for a team that’s struggled to find an identity since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford, and for a league that’s slowly been losing prominence in Europe over the last couple of years. Plus, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba would be on the same team. CAN YOU IMAGINE?
But … but… didn’t United let him go for free four years ago?
I know, I know. I still haven’t forgiven Sir Alex for that. But:
Let’s just get this done, OK?