On the back of my article on Lukaku is this piece on Juventus sensation Paul Pogba. In this article we shall explore whether and why we should sign him and the economic and footballing reasons involved.
Ability - This is perhaps something that is very important to cover on. I read a comment a few days back that buying Paul Pogba is a waste of money because he is essentially a like for like replacement for Ramires. While I won`t embarrass the member who said this it brought to light the glaring ignorance on Pogba. At the same time I will also state Ramires is very much in my plans and Jose's plans. The merits of Ramires will be discussed in another article.
Coming back to Paul Pogba. Terms like complete striker, complete midfielder etc are cliches. But if there was ever a complete midfielder then it`s Paul Pogba.
Every player has certain glaring weaknesses. But anyone who has actually seen 30-40 games of Pogba in action will tell you that there is nothing the kid cannot do.
Pogba is like a cloning experiment gone great. He combines the qualities of all types of midfielders.
First and foremost he is blessed with balance, tactical and technical. With midfielders like Fabregas and Kroos you can say they offer much more in attack than defense. And the vica-versa is true for some midfielders.
In Pogba's case he brilliantly balances attacking and defensive nous and gives you a completely balanced team by being a link. In fact there isn`t a system or a team that would struggle to cope with Pogba or vica versa.
In attack - Pogba is very good in dribbling past opponents despite his tall frame with relative ease. In gaming terms he has got the proverbial 5 star skills. His ability to keep the ball under pressure at such a young age is shockingly good. His first touch and ball distribution are excellent as well.
With Lampard`s exit our midfield looks a bit thin in terms of scoring goals from a distance. Whether via a pass or a volley or a half volley Pogba has the ability to strike from 20-30 yards out at will like as if he were a striker.
His ability to play the quick overhead pass or through ball are already there and will improve tremendously with age.
Defensively - his positional understanding is perfect. He knows where he has to be located at any given point of the game and is rarely caught out. His work rate and desire to give his all combined with excellent understanding of the game means he combines with Matic perfectly to give you the most balanced, intelligent and talented pivot combination. In a midfield trio his attacking prowess and quick transition of the ball give you a third creative outlet along with Matic and Fabregas meaning you simply cannot mark the Chelsea midfield and prevent them from both controlling possession or counterattacking at will. Trying to stop a midfield trio is quite simply a fruitless task. And at the same time trying to overrun them is equally hard as Matic and Pogba are beasts.
His height of 6 feet 2 inches gives you a set piece threat both defensively and offensively. Having to cope with JT, Costa, Cahill, Ivanovic, Matic and Pogba all at once during a corner is a nightmarish situation that would trouble even the jolly green giants of Stoke let alone midgets on European nights.
Potential - The best part of Pogba's ability is that not only are they very good but have a humongous growth potential. What this basically means is with the right attitude from the player and the coach and barring Essienesque injuries Pogba is nailed on to become the best central midfielder of the coming decade and a potential ballon d'or contender.
The best part is Chelsea will have the best midfield in Europe for a decade and dominating the midfield week in week out is the necessary hallmark of a team that wants to dominate Europe and England and accumulate trophies like pokemon. Chelsea's success under the first Mourinho era and well into the manager carousel era was having the best and most balanced midfield.
On the Cost Factor - first of all lets understand that the figure of €60 million is in euros and not pounds. This makes the figure close to £54 million pounds. How did this figure come up?
This figure came up when Real Madrid decided they wanted some Pogba in their galactico side and Juventus said it would cost them 60 million euros flat to make it happen.
What this essentially means is that Juve know if they sell Pogba it would essentially mean the buying club will acquire the best midfielder for another decade and want to be fairly compensated. This is a statement of intent by Juve and a recognition of what Pogba offers. This does not necessarily mean that £54 million is what it will exactly cost. A figure of £48-49 million is what the deal would actually end up costing the buying club. Is this figure too much? Yes, on the naked eye it is a lot to pay. But once you dig deeper the story is different.
Another top midfielder out for sale from the same club with the same types of buyers interested (Madrid, PSG, United, Chelsea) is Arturo Vidal. I know many people who feel buying Vidal for 40 million or Martinez for a similar amount is alright but buying Pogba is not.
But there is a big catch they do not understand. Let me explain.
When you buy a 26-27-28 year old you are 'buying' a player and not 'investing' in him. At the end of the 5 years with you irrespective of whether you given an extension during the course of the contract or let him go for free you aren`t getting any money back because he has zero resale value. The max you can ever recoup for a 32 year old midfielder is 5-7 million and that`s assuming he hasn`t declined badly enough with age.
So basically what it means is if you are paying 40 million for a 26+ year old midfielder you are essential kissing the money you spend goodbye permanently. But if you pay 50 million for a Pogba when he is 26 and assuming you haven`t been daft enough to not extend him- he will be worth
A. More than 50 million if he lives up to his potential
B. Close to 50 million if he does a great job if not spectacular.
C. Around 25-30 million if he underperforms.
What this means is you go anywhere from making a profit or at the very least recovering a sizeable chunk of his transfer fee if you ever do choose to sell him or he asks for a move.
This is the difference between 'investing' and 'buying' when you are paying huge sums.
We 'bought' Torres, Essien, Drogba. We 'invested' in Hazard, Oscar, Mata because we bought them young.
Also let`s assume we never sell Pogba and he plays 10 years for us. What works out cheaper? Buying Vidal for 40 million or buying Pogba for 50 million. Shockingly the answer is Pogba for 50 million. What many people fail to understand is that the transfer fee is ammortised during the entire duration of the player`s contract and further ammortised if the contract is extended. So Vidal would cost you 8 million a year transfer fee wise over a 5 year period by the end of which he is 32 and in a year or two ready to be moved on.
Pogba would cost 10 million a year for the first three years. Usually at this point we will extend a player`s contract and sell handsomely if he doesn`t. Assuming we extend it, he will cost only 4 million a year for 5 more years and that figure will come down when we extend again.
So over a 12 year period Pogba's net transfer cost per year would only be HALF of that of Vidal/Martinez and two-fifths that of Torres. To put things into perspective that`s like paying 25 million for a top midfielder who is 26-27.
So whether we sell him for a profit or the same price or we sell him for half his bought price or if we never sell him and keep him for a decade Pogba will still be half as expensive as any top midfielders and strikers. I am so surprised no one has worked this bit out.
Salary - Adding to the fact that even a huge transfer fee of 50 million being ever economical is the low wages. To sign a Vidal you have to match United's wage offers of 220k or at least come close. Pogba on the other hand is at a laughable 1million a year. Matching Juve's offer to quadruple his wages is still a whole lot cheaper than paying 220k a week.
When people say United did a mistake by buying Shaw for 35 million they miss the point. It`s not the transfer fee but the wages that cripple clubs. Its Torres's wages that are a problem and make him unmovable. Every time United extend Shaw they have to give him a rise making him a financial burden permanently even if he goes on to become world class.
The fact that Pogba's wages will be a half of what you have to pay Vidal to land him means he ends up costing even less than half year on year than Vidal by the time both of them turn 32-33.
How will he fit in? - If there ever was a perfect CM who is a box to box, cum DLP to partner a ball playing DM like a Matic its Pogba. With him you have the best pivot in Europe let alone England for the coming decade. Player`s don`t play 60 games a season. Rotation will Ramires and Van Ginkel and Tiago/Fabregas are inevitable. A good pivot needs 4-5 quality players in the squad as opposed to two. Squad rotation keeps players fresh and ensures everyone is happy with their contribution.
With Matic you have one of the best ball playing DMs. Backing him up with Tiago whom we land on a free is a master stroke as Tiago unlike when he was last with us is now a DM. He makes an average of 4 interceptions a game and tackles really well. Plus he will be on low wages. Tiago also is an excellent stopgap to Nathaniel Chalobah who will require two stints in the Premier League to become a ready product to use.
Pogba as a partner to Matic is ever reliable and rotating with MVG will do them both good. Ramires finishes the 5 man pivot force by being the utility player (why I keep Ramires over Mikel is for another day).
Fabregas on the other hand rotates with Oscar. Fabregas is what we needed to unlock parked buses last season where as Oscar is the number 10 of choice keeping with Jose's 'how to beat big teams' blueprint.
In a 3 man midfield all 6 of these players can be used depending on the opposition and situation to devastating effect.
On Our Youth - Whenever I hear our youth will get ruined because of Pogba I wince. Or comments like if MVG or Ruben Loftus Cheek or Chalobah started for us they would be as good as Pogba I wince some more.
First of all some of the names like Baker, Swift etc aren`t pivot players per say. Further players like Ake, Chalobah are more defensive midfielders than central midfielders. The only true CMs are Ruben Loftus Cheek and Josh McEachran. Please not - not all pivot players are CMs.
Josh McEachran hasn`t shown any signs of being ready anytime soon. And RLC is 18. It`s going to be another 3-4years before he is even in the picture after successful loan spells of increasing difficulty.
Further I believe in a 'survival of the fittest policy' rather than 'protectionism'.
'protectionism' is a concept based on emotions where one wants a player to succeed because he was from the academy for the bragging rights and emotional kick of the player being 'one of us'. This mind-set compromises on quality. For every Sterling and Januzaj there are 30-40 United/Liverpool boys that didn`t make the cut. 90% of any academy produces duds.
Also academy success for big clubs doesn`t lead to significant saving. Barca have spent only 4 million a year less than we have despite having La Masia.
Furthermore the concept of protectionism compromises on quality.
In 10 years no one will remember whether Pogba was made at Chelsea or not. They will remember the trophies we won. Similarly not many of us remember that many of our academy products weren`t from Chelsea but other academies. By that definition does JMac deserve to be in the first team because he joined earlier than a 16 year old we signed from another academy? By this definition only Chalobah and Jmac deserve to be protected and Feruz and Brown are 'not one of us'. It doesn`t really matter where the player was born or developed or the colour of his skin or his hairstyle. What matters is what he does when he is in the senior team.
A survival of the fittest policy demand merit. This means if Ruben Loftus Cheek and JMac are better after 4 years than Pogba its 'au revoir' Pogba. Or in English 'bye-bye'
And we cash in on him.
Promoting players on merit and giving them guarantees on merit ensures the overall well-being of the club. The number of academy boys in the first team is only a statistic to brag about over coffee tables.
Anyway, after looking at the footballing merits and supposed 'overpaying' of signing Pogba and after certain myths and emotional arguments are demolished there is only one take away from this article.
When you have an opportunity to sign a player like Pogba you don`t act like a wisecrack and propagate myths of economics and tactics from the comfort of an armchair with a picture of Wenger behind you.
You sign him up.