Man United’s pursuit of Pogba shows transfer fees getting out of hand

  • Govindan Kishwar, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 07, 2016 01:08 IST
Paul Pogba (centre) left Manchester United for just £800,000 in 2012. The club are now trying to resign the midfielder by paying upwards of £100 million. (Getty Images)

“Completely Crazy.”

Some would say, Arsene Wenger is jealous. He has every reason to be. Manchester United are close to signing Paul Pogba for over £100m (R893cr) from Juventus; the player is only 23 and is a box-to-box midfielder, the kind Arsenal have been crying out for since Patrick Vieira left in 2005. Oh, and, Pogba is French too.

But then, this is not the first time Wenger and other coaches have spoken out over high transfer fees.

“If you bring one player in for £100m and he gets injured, then it all goes through the chimney. The day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore, because the game is about playing together,” Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp said recently.

Many, mostly United fans, have argued that the investment in Pogba is with an eye on the long-term. That his age and potential should justify the outlay. That he will make United title contenders again. They felt the same when Angel di Maria was signed in 2014 for nearly £60m (R535cr). The Argentine was sold to Paris Saint-Germain a year later for a £15m (R134cr) loss.

Try this for context. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovic bought Chelsea in 2003 and soon made them the Real Madrid of the Premier League. They bought frivolously and won their first title in 50 years in the 2004-05. They did it again next year, but have won the league just twice in the decade since. Yes, they won the long-awaited first Champions League in 2012 and dominated the FA Cup, but is it a good return for more than the £2b (R17876cr) invested in signings, infrastructure etc. by Abramovic?

Perhaps not, but that didn’t stop Manchester City from joining them in the high rollers’ club investing over £1.5b (R13402cr)since Sheikh Mansour swooped in with his dirhams in 2008. The return? Two Premier League titles and two domestic cups. The Community Shield is a friendly.

Compared to that, Leicester City’s surprise title winning squad last season cost a little over £54m (R482cr).

Getting on Board

Till recently, it was Liverpool, Manchester Untied and Arsenal who provided the calm. They kept functioning the old-school way promoting youth while shelling-out money only when need be. Sure they had flops, a la Diego Forlan, Andy Carrol, but they stuck to doing what they knew best—buy cheap, mould them into champions. Until now.

Manchester United’s pursuit of Pogba—a player they lost for just £800,000 (R7.1cr) to Juventus—can be used as the definition of all that is wrong as far as transfers are concerned.

It makes for sad reading about a club whose biggest outlay till 2008 was a shade over £30m (R268cr) for Dimitar Berbatov. A classy player who didn’t exactly fit into the team but still won them the league title in 2011.

One of the richest sides in football, United were never shy of spending but always did it smartly till Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge. An example would be their £29m (R259cr)outlay for Rio Ferdinand in 2002. Ferdinand left as a club legend in 2014.

Perspective needed

But has it come to the point where United actually pay more to Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola than other clubs pay for players. According to a list compiled by Sportskeeda, assuming United pay the full 30m Euros (R224cr)in Raiola’s fees, for the same amount they could have bought any one of Fabinho, Georginio Wijnaldum, Mario Goetze, Jamie Vardy or Santi Cazorla.

What sides in England don’t realise, is that they are no Real Madrid. When Cristiano Ronaldo joined the Spanish giants from United in 2009, it took barely a year for them to recoup the £80m they paid for him from shirt sales and other ‘Ronaldo memorabilia’.

The only ones paying for it are the fans. While the average ticket price in the Premiership crossed £30 (R2680) in 2015, the cost of replica shirts has also skyrocketed for the ones watching continents away.

The player himself, in a series of social media posts, is basking in attention. “We catch Pogba with his contract in Universal Studios LA amusement park”, says one Instagram post, “breaking news: Pogba undergoes medical check in Universal Studios amusement park California” says another.

It all brings us back to Wenger’s quote on how the fee being paid is completely crazy. Sure, he would have wanted to have Pogba — any manager (apart from maybe Ferguson) in the world would — but what matters more is the cost, not just monetary, and the message being sent out.

Wenger may not have won the league in over a decade, but by calling the transfer fees “completely crazy”, he seems to be one of the few whose sanity is intact.

Views expressed are personal. The writer tweets as @govindankishwar

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