Every summer transfer window brings one major protracted transfer saga. This year it is the turn of Juventus and France midfield star Paul Pogba, who is the subject of a world record bid from Manchester United. The sums are astronomical, with the transfer fee alone in excess of £100m, with wages and agent fees taking the figures to unprecedented levels.
Many journalists across Europe have reported that the deal is tantalisingly close, but as with previous sagas, these deals do not always get over the line. Looking back to last summer is one such example, with the futures of David De Gea and Sergio Ramos appearing to be heading in opposite directions to each other. These deals did not happen and this is one of the reasons why Jose Mourinho has publicly declared that he has other targets, should the Pogba deal fail to materialise.
It is true to say that Pogba is arguably the best central midfielder on the planet at this moment in time. His natural ability, athletic physique, height, guile and confidence ensure that he stands out when playing in Serie A and also for the French national team. The player is elegant and glides across the surface in many ways similar to Yaya Toure in full pomp. His versatility in the middle of the park, which means Pogba can play equally as well as a more defensive midfielder or as one who is more advanced, have all contributed to the price tag afforded to him.
However, for the £100m plus fee, you would expect to be signing not only a player who is the finished article, but a player who is one of the most potent attacking forces in the game. Think Ronaldo, Messi, Bale and Suarez as players who it could be argued could possibly justify such a hefty price tag. It is not unfair to say that Pogba is not yet the finished article, at 23 years of age, and he is certainly not a forward player.
The new Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, will take this into consideration. He has already signed Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but does not generally spend sums to break transfer records, especially for midfield players. A prudent operator in the transfer market, Mourinho also has back up options, as he discussed during his press conference in China on United’s pre-season tour.
The likely fall back options would be PSG’s schemer Blaise Matuidi and Portugal’s Euro winner Joao Mario, who impressed during this summers tournament. Both of these players would cost considerably less, and tellingly also provide the legs, energy and tackling ability to the midfield which is a hallmark of all Mourinho teams.
With the Manchester United squad now looking stronger and primed for a bright future, the central midfield area is the last piece of the jigsaw Mourinho will be looking to target. With Jose’s record of having players in this position who sacrifice themselves for the team, it would not be too much of a surprise if either Matuidi or Joao Mario were to take the vacant number 6 shirt at Old Trafford ahead of Pogba.
This would of course be the cheaper option, but it would not represent signing a player of poorer quality, as both of Mourinho’s alternatives are team players who would bring an energy and selfishness to a club which is now starting to look as though they are moving forward following the Ferguson era.