Put a monetary value on the footballing ability of Paul Pogba. Now discard it. Forever. In fact, stop putting monetary values on footballers period.
The transfer fee is a strange entity when used by fans. Figures are tossed about with abandon, players aren’t worth a penny more than X. An extra five million or so can be the difference between a snip or an obscene signing. Fans assign value like you would when horse trading with an electrician over a room that needs to be rewired.
Many wouldn’t have paid anything above 25 million for Sadio Mané for example, scoffing at the fact that Liverpool have deemed it prudent to spend some 36 million on the Senegalese speedster. That extra 11 million saved could, in theory, be magically rerouted towards a left back for example, a club's money funneled like an oil pipeline or checked off a spreadsheet.
The nominative worth of Paul Pogba is exactly what Manchester United paid for him. No, he isn’t as good as Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but it’s a safe bet to assume that United didn’t use that particular logic when negotiating with Juventus. Nor did the Old Lady knock off a few million from the price because Pogba had a quiet European Championship.
The clubs met at a figure that suited all, Pogba can say he’s the most expensive player in history, United could leverage the transfer saga for content and can point to a sum of money befitting a club of their standing while Juventus can shrug and say; how could we turn it down?
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 8, 2016
The particular wrinkle with Pogba of course, is that fact he was on United’s books to begin with. It was a colossal error from Alex Ferguson to not pay the then youngster what he felt he was worth but then, not many fretted when it happened. The all seeing Ferguson’s judgement was seen as prudent yet Pogba tore it up in Serie A, winning four straight titles and establishing himself as the poster boy for the FIFA generation.
Because that’s what he is. He is a strange mix of freakish athleticism and skill but he has yet to show the ability to dominate a game from midfield. In France’s Euro 2016 semi-final win over Germany for example, it was amazing to see just how ineffective Pogba was in the first half as Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger monopolised the ball and rendered him near useless.
But in the second half, Pogba came up with a moment that currently defines him. After receiving the ball on the left hand side of the box, Pogba mesmerised Shkodran Mustafi with a change of direction that would involve a convoluted button combination on FIFA before his cross was eventually prodded home by Antoine Grizemann.
That Pogba was largely ineffective was forgotten. He had delivered a consumable moment. He may be the most vine-able player in world football and that is another reason United have shelled out on him.
He is the dabbing, hair-fading face of the FIFA generation and United are using him the way the Cleveland Cavaliers would use LeBron James. That Pogba didn’t fit Florentino’s Perez’s idea of a Galactico might be a sign that Perez is losing touch. He is the new Galactico - a standalone brand who can be as deadly when deployed as a tool to reign in Far East brands as he can be arriving late at the far post. Madrid may have deemed him expensive now but might find the price has doubled in three years’ time.
United will assume that Jose Mourinho will iron out any positional flaws and play Pogba where he can best deploy his tricks. It’s a safe bet to assume that Mourinho will have noted Didier Deschamps struggle to make the most of Pogba in the summer and will have a position earmarked to accentuate his gifts.
Because there are many gifts, Pogba may not be the best player in the world right now, but he might be one day. In the meantime, he’s exceptionally good now, he’s merely 23 and he might be the most bankable star in football today.
Put a price on that.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 9, 2016
Original artwork by Eoghan O'Mahony