Amid a figurative hurricane of transfer rumors, Paul Pogba is maxing, doing that “Carefree European on Holiday in America” thing. But instead of taking a sightseeing tour in a fanny pack and a “I-Heart-Major-Metropolitan-City” shirt, he’s playing 21 with Everton and Belgium forward Romelu Lukaku in a full NBA uniform.
Close your eyes and try to picture soccer players playing basketball.
That’s it, you’ve got it — that’s exactly how Pogba and Lukaku play basketball.
It’s not their fault, mind you. Soccer is essentially a series of light, quick shifts of direction while basketball movements are more deliberate — like quarter-turns of a steering wheel versus half-turns.
In order to get to the highest level of the sport and command laughable transfer sums, soccer phenoms dart around training cones and do tight-area ball drills from the time they’re able to walk and chew gum at the same time. So their top halves don’t really churn at the same pace as their bottom halves, which somewhat explains why they look like they’re buffering whenever they try to take someone off the dribble — or rather, like the ball is forever running away from them and they’re trying to catch it with one hand tied behind their back. It’s just … different, you know?
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Pogba and Lukaku’s adventure on the blacktop obviously isn’t a novel thing. Soccer people are part of the genus of “athletes,” and being an athlete requires a certain blind confidence. That absence of self-doubt is powerful. Soccer stars, like many other pro athletes, can and will try anything with minimal prior experience, like playing basketball, more often than not to hilarious results. Like two years ago, when Wayne Rooney swatted Raheem Sterling’s floater so hard that Sterling should’ve lost points for it. Especially since Rooney was barefoot.
Or like last summer when the Paris St. Germain team was given a gym and some basketballs during their preseason tour and tried to feel it out.
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While most of the PSG team sort of looked like confused children banging out “Chopsticks” on a piano as they passed the ball around, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was, of course, the lone exception. Because Zlatan is always the lone exception. Because Zlatan is Zlatan.
At present, no one has any clue where Paul Pogba will play soccer next season. Anyone who says otherwise is lying, because Paul Pogba doesn’t know, either.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri is clinging to the idea of Pogba as a member of the Bianconeri like driftwood, even as his team played preseason tune-up matches in Australia without the star midfielder. Last week, Manchester United announced new kit numbers and they left the no. 6 shirt conspicuously unassigned amid partially substantiated rumors that they’re going to fork over the GDP of a tiny island nation for Pogba’s services. However, the move — you know, if there’s going to be one — is reportedly being stalled by representatives on both sides as they thump their fists on the conference table over who’s going to eat the extortionate 20 million euros fee that Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola is seeking for brokering the deal. Meanwhile Juve CEO Beppe Marotta has his fingers in his ears, la-la-la-ing the questions about Pogba’s future away.
And Paul Pogba himself? He’s [extremely Jay Z on the outro of “My First Song” voice] somewhere nice where no mosquitoes at lamping in a hot tub like fuck that shit.
It’s maddening stuff, but the transfer window doesn’t close until Aug. 31, so for your own sanity, expect this to continue until just about then.