It’s quite the coincidence that of all the players linked with blockbuster moves to Old Trafford during this summer’s transfer window, the two Manchester United fans would most like to see sign on the dotted line actually used to play for the club.
Forget your Gareth Bale’s, your Roberto Firmino’s and your Mats Hummels’s, this summer it’s all about Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba. Both men are busy tearing up the European scene in their own way; both men would significantly improve Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils in time for next year’s expected assault on the Premier League title.
Alas with the best will in the world United can’t hope to negotiate the return of two men whose combined value is probably in excess of £200 million. Adidas’ new sponsorship deal might subsidise much of Van Gaal’s summer spending but it isn’t going to allow the Dutchman to enjoy a transfer window even a Football Manager whiz would struggle to come by.
What it essentially means is that United have to focus on one of the other if they’re to stand any chance of doing blockbuster business. History will tell you a war can rarely be successfully fought on two fronts at the same time, and in this case it’s a fair enough assumption to make that if Van Gaal tries to split his resources into two chases he’ll end up with nothing left but an angry set for expectant fans.
So, it comes down to a question of preference. How do you choose between going after one of the world’s two phenomenons or going after a man who might well become the third in just a few years.
It’s a good old fashioned dilemma that looks great for managers on paper but really doesn’t promise anything but headaches moving forward. Put simply, there’s no real way of Van Gaal proving that he’s made the right choice.
To work with such fine margins one has to go into minute detail, and unfortunately when that happens it’s Ronaldo who is going to be left out. The Real Madrid forward is an imperial athlete who is leaps and bounds ahead of Pogba at this moment in time, but if United are planning for the future then their options are somewhat surprisingly restricted.
Van Gaal would no doubt be bathed in gold and made to don a royal red cape and a coronation crown if he could tempt Ronaldo back to Old Trafford this summer. The Portugal captain is still a fan favourite at The Theatre of Dreams, for obvious reasons, and his introduction to the fold would be all the proof needed that the ghouls from the post-Sir Alex Ferguson meltdown had been banished for good.
Pogba has the upper-hand
And yet, ludicrous as it seems to suggest, Ronaldo just can’t offer what Pogba can. The France youngster has a string to his bow that no amount of extra hours or awe-inspiring goal hauls can give his Los Blancos rival; miles yet to be added to the clock and a great deal of potential yet to be unlocked.
Given Pogba’s value to Juventus it’s reasonable to put he and Ronaldo in the same ball park regarding their respective price-tags. Just what figure sits inside that ball-park is impossible to really predict as Guiseppe Marotta - Juve’s director - has already made it clear that the Turin giants won’t accept a bid of even €80 million, but it’s safe to say it’s a hell of a lot.
The move to be made
With that in mind the only thing that can decisively drive a wedge between Pogba and Ronaldo is United’s intentions concerning what they’re looking for. Sure, if it’s goals and a talismanic figure up front then the elder man wins hands down, but Pogba is a Patrick Vieira-esque sentinel who can patrol the middle of the park and also bomb forward with alarming strength and composure.
With the money they possess United can probably source goals from an expensive striker. Finding a world-class presence in central midfield is considerably more difficult.
Obviously you would have to be the world’s worst football enthusiast to think that Ronaldo would be anything other than an incredible signing for United in the current climate, but when push comes to shove and the budget will allow for just one game-changing buy, it’s Pogba who wins the day in my book. As harsh as it sounds Ronaldo will in just a few short years become the past; his counterpart has it within him to become the future.
United fans, who would you prefer to see arrive this summer if you could choose? Let us know in the comments box below...