Two transfers in the last 24 hours; one to each side of Manchester. l’m no longer sure if those two clubs have lost touch with reality or if I have.
The signing is certainly a statement to the rest of the footballing world that Manchester United can still compete financially and reputationally with the elite, despite their second class status as a Europa League club this season. In addition, Pogba’s global appeal will generate the club a vast amount of commercial revenue.
However, this is a player, who despite his impressively athletic stature, still has a tendency to float in and out of matches, as was clearly evident at Euro 2016. French team coach, Didier Deschamps, was so unimpressed with the pre-tournament poster boy that he subbed Pogba off in France’s first game against Romania and dropped him for the second against Albania.
Although he is widely lauded as the complete midfield player and fancies himself in a more attacking midfield role, he has never registered 10 league goals in a single season. Last season’s league tally of 8 goals and 12 assists for Juventus is commendable but hardly cements him in the upper echelons of world football.
Pogba is a very talented player but is ill equipped to deliver from day 1 what’s expected from the world’s most expensive player and the highest paid in the Premier League, on a reported salary of £290,000 per week.
This is a world record fee that Manchester United are paying for a rough diamond who has yet to convince everyone he is the real deal. World records surely should be for finished products, or at least those who have consistently lit up games with breathtaking majesty, invention and finesse. Match winners. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Bale and Suarez spring to mind. Pogba only scored one match-winning goal for Juventus last season.
Less than 24 hours later, across Manchester, their rivals were hastily announcing the arrival of their own rough diamond – John Stones – for a reported £47.5 million from Everton.
£47.5 million for a player who not only failed to make the starting line-up of one of England’s poorest ever tournament defences, but also struggled to make it into Everton’s line-up for much of last season.
His former manager, Roberto Martinez, dropped Stones due to the amount of errors he was making and even experimented with playing him at full back to limit any damage he could do by overplaying at the back. In short, he was a liability. Albeit a talented liability with potential if he could cut those mistakes out of his game; mistakes that were largely of his own making.
Stones is a modern, ball-playing centre half who can play out from the back as Guardiola demands. He is quick across the turf, reads the game well and has an eye for an incisive pass; able to initiate a fast transition from defence to attack. However, he currently lacks a physical presence, his decision making is questionable and he has precious little big game experience.
Manchester City were not deterred by the mixed results (at best) of their previous poaching from Goodison at overinflated prices – Joleon Lescott and Jack Rodwell.
In fact, the fee City have paid makes him the second most expensive defender of all time, ironically only marginally behind another who hasn’t mastered the art of defending, David Luiz.
One thing both these clubs should have learnt in recent years is that throwing money around doesn’t guarantee success. Both of these players may turn out to be huge successes at their respective clubs and I’m not predicting they won’t be excellent additions to their respective squads. But by any measure, both clubs have massively overpaid for these acquisitions. If you need to pay world record fees for potential then how much is the cost of acquiring proven talent?!