One of the greatest miscalculations in football management, as far as Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United are concerned is that how they failed to see the prodigious talent of a certain French teenage midfielder who is lighting up European football now, that goes by the name Paul Pogba. Pogba, now 23 years old, was once a part of the successful Manchester United academy team that featured the likes of Jesse Lingard and Ravel Morrison – destined to get his chance to make the first team at United – but it never materialized for various reasons and the Frenchman ended up joining Serie A side Juventus once his contract with United had expired.
The rest as we know is there for all to see. From a tall and brash teenager with raw talent, he’s developed into one of the best midfielders in the world in his age group, under the Italian giants winning four league titles in a row and reaching the 2015 Champions League final. Every time when Pogba is asked about United, one could expect a tone that conveys an answer along the lines of ‘you have made a mistake by selling me, look what I have become now’. But according to recent reports from Italian journalist Gianluca DiMarzio, Mourinho’s Manchester United want to bring the 23-year old back to Old Trafford and make a statement while a sum close to about €120 million is being suggested as the asking price by Juventus for them to part ways with the player.
Although, money has never been an issue for United – being arguably, the richest football brand in the world at the moment, the price that’s been quoted does raise several eyebrows, despite the apparent quality of the footballer in question and the impact he could make on his old side. For a 23-year old, who is two or maybe even three or four years off his absolute prime, this seems to be a case of paying over the odds – but if Man United could get six or seven years out of Pogba, in today’s market, is it right to call this shrewd business?
Statistically, 2015-16 has been Pogba’s most productive season, suggesting he could only get better. He scored 8 goals and assisted a personal record of 12 goals in 35 appearances playing a pivotal role in Juventus’ fourth league title in succession. Ever since he joined the Italian side, he’s been the best under-23 player in the league – showing physical maturity beyond his years in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest leagues to play in, especially for a midfielder. But there’s an argument that Pogba is still quite far from a finished article with his decision making in the final third, still needs improvement for him to become the absolute best that he desires to be.
But for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, it’s all about buying in-form players to deliver in the near future – to take them back to challenging for the league and possibly in Europe. Would Pogba improve Man United’s current side? Without a doubt he would. Crunching some numbers, Pogba has had a very good season, defined by a strong balance between going forward and helping out the defence, so good that he has managed to complete more take-ons, win more aerial duels on an average per game than Juventus’ latest acquisition Miralem Pjanic and United’s current central midfielders, who could be the Frenchman’s future teammates.
Going forward, Pjanic has been the better player in 2015/16 – could well be the best in Serie A in his position. But this is where Pogba’s indecisiveness or often his whimsical style – a tendency to be flashy when he could have done it with a simple pass, can stand in the way of creating a goal-scoring opportunity. But it’s often easy to forget that he’s only 23 with plenty of time and football ahead of his boots, as all youngsters do, he will learn as he plays.
This brings to the overarching question as to whether Pogba would make an impact – an immediate one, of the sort, a Gareth Bale or Neymar would if they signed for United in the summer. It is debatable, but for the time being, that may well, be not the case. But is that a reason to not sign the player when the opportunity is there to irrespective of how unlikely it is? Only a fool would say yes, considering what he could bring to the table, even when he’s not a fully developed player himself – such is the dearth of quality in midfield at Manchester United, at the minute.
United are no strangers to splashing the cash to sign young footballers – if they saw the potential in them to have long and successful careers in England. Rio Ferdinand will vouch for that. Wayne Rooney will. As for now, we could only hope that Pogba would too, in ten years time.