As the Frenchman marks his Old Trafford homecoming Khel Now retraces his journey from and back to Manchester…
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 8, 2016
These days spotting Paul Pogba is not difficult, all you need to do is look up billboards or jerseys. His brand partner (Adidas) and almost every major tabloid in the world have left no stone unturned for a man who has his own name turned into a hashtag (#PogBoom)
Manchester United and Pogba go back a long way. In 2009,the wily Sir Alex Ferguson and financial Goliath David Gill had spotted and circumvented around bringing him to Manchester at the tender age of 15 from a small club in France by the name of Le Havre.
The diminutive French club had whipped up quite the storm around the transfer, with their president citing Pogba’s money-minded ways and a non-solicitation agreement which was supposed to give his parent club the right to sign him as a pro, as reasons behind their dismay at his departure. Fast forward to 2016 and the French side are eagerly waiting for a slice of the 100m pie.
Since leaving the red half of Manchester, the 23-year old hasn’t looked back. Five Scudettos and a few Coppa Italia titles that he won with Juventus sit quite beautifully next to the FA Youth Cup medal that he earned with the Red Devils.
Sir Alex witnessed the meteoric rise of the Frenchman, and ironically even mentioned of something that would bring us to these mind-boggling numbers (a reported salary of 290k a week) that are being mentioned by his former Pizza chef turned agent, Mino Raiola.
At the beginning of the 2011–12 season, Ferguson feared the worst when talking about the precocious talent and his role at the club. “I mean if we hold Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave. You know, in a couple of years’ time when his contract is going to finish. So we have to give him the opportunity to see how he can do in the first-team and he’s got great ability.” Little did the greatest man-manager in the game know that Pogba’s well-documented, yet inevitable departure in 2012 would be the only blemish in an otherwise, trophy-laden dynasty.
Ferguson still retains a seat of influence in the United boardroom and according to various sources, Jose Mourinho’s idol and confidante has given his blessing to bring the one that got away back to Old Trafford this summer. Business put aside, Pogba did refer to Manchester United as his ‘first family’ and enjoyed quite a camaraderie with bad-boy Ravel Morrison and Jesse Lingard (who he shares his goal celebration with ie ‘The Dab’)
But, never in the history of the beautiful game have the financial boundaries been pushed to such an extent. Arsene Wenger branded the transaction as ‘crazy money’, Jurgen Klopp vowed he would walk away from football the day adsorbent transfer fees became the norm, even United legend Paul Scholes believes the numbers being thrown around are ludicrous.
Manchester United received a paltry compensation of £800,000 pounds from a sports tribunal upon Pogba’s move to Juventus in 2012. He now stands to earn approximately the same in a month.
Paul Pogba – The Prodigal Son Returns by @aditya_reds
The world-record move could not have come at a better time for both player and club. The post-Ferguson United is a different landscape. In the Scotsman’s long and distinguished reign the silverware did all the talking. But now, it is as much about the United off the pitch as it is about the team on it. This is a far more assertive club, that has the money to fetch the biggest players and doesn’t mind flaunting it. In Jose Mourinho they now have one of the most successful managers in the modern era. But, there was also the need to marry brand United with a global superstar. The Frenchman fits that bill perfectly. At 23 the powerhouse midfielder is already a seasoned winner. Widely tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner, it’s not as if there was a lack of suitors for his services. The Spanish big two were certainly lucrative options, but as Mourinho rightly pointed out following his Community Sheild triumph yesterday, at either of those clubs ‘The Pog’ would have to play second fiddle to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. In contrast, at United he gets to be the king of the jungle. The linchpin around whom, certainly the club if not the manager, can build at least a decade of dominance.
Pogba’s departure from United made few headlines and with Ferguson’s iron fist still ruling the club there was indeed little to fret about. But, his return to Old Trafford has captured the imagination of the world, with the context of his previous exit no doubt adding its own fascinating sub-plot to the saga. If this signing is anything, it is a statement of intent, a declaration that the Red Devils are a rising force once again after three years of quiet. The Frenchman now has the perfect platform to elevate himself to among the best in the world. But, the success of his United homecoming will depend greatly on whether he can match the rise of the club stride for stride.
Editorial by Khel Now-Feature Columnist Chaitanya Lekhwani, He is a content creator and a writer. A devout Manchester United supporter and loves the good, bad and the ugly side of the beautiful game.
Favourite player: Ronaldo ‘Fenomeno’ Nazario de Lima
You can follow him on Twitter.