Paul Pogba is this summer’s transfer window poster boy. The chase for the man seen as Europe’s most exciting young talent looks to be coming down to a battle between Barcelona and Manchester City, with conflicting reports as to where he is likely to end up.
The price one of the clubs will have to pay for his services is being widely quoted at around £71m. This is so steep because of the way Pogba’s playing style fits with the recent change in football's trends.
He is quick, athletic and dynamic. This, combined with great technical skill, makes him a most appealing prospect in a football culture that has now changed from the ‘tiki-taka’ of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team.
Article continues below
Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, in winning the 2013 and 2014 Champions Leagues respectively, heralded this new era. Their victories were based on devastating counter-attacking football rather than the possession play that had reaped such success for Barcelona.
In their treble success last season, Barcelona adjusted to this. Players like Rakitic added dynamism to the team and his selection over the ageing Xavi was symptomatic of Enrique’s tweak to the Catalan team’s playing style.
Article continues below
If Barcelona were to win this Pogba battle, their style would likely move further in this counter-attacking direction. Barcelona ‘s possession style of football was eventually shown to be vulnerable by Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League Semi-Final.
Chelsea showed that through discipline and organisation, one could place a nigh-on impenetrable wall in front of the Barcelona passing carousel. The addition of Pogba would go further towards ensuring these tactics could not be effectively employed against them again. His pace adds impetus to the midfield that stops an opposing team having time to reorganise and therefore means gaps can be exploited in the defence.
His terrific long range shooting also provides another goal-scoring option should a team try to set up camp on the edge of the 18-yard box.
For Manchester City, the acquisition would not only be another chance to get one over on their cross-city rivals by acquiring the man who left Manchester United on a free transfer, but would also announce themselves as a team able to compete with the biggest clubs for the biggest stars.
The relaxation of FFP restrictions this summer means they can again flex their financial muscle and Pogba would fulfil one of two roles for them. Pellegrini might want to partner him with Yaya Toure in midfield. This would be a frightening prospect for the midfield running ability it would give them.
However, it might also leave them exposed in defence, with the two both making marauding forward runs. Alternatively, Pogba may be seen as the perfect replacement for a player who has been both brilliant and petulant at City.
Pogba’s younger legs and greater potential would certainly be an upgrade on Toure in midfield. His dynamism combined with Silva’s guile would create a partnership confident of unlocking the meanest of defences.
Pogba will be a fantastic acquisition for either of these clubs. Despite a slightly tough period with injuries last year that resulted in a dip of form, he remained one of the shining lights in a Juventus team that battled to the Champions League Final.
However, if his proposed move to England or Spain does go through, it will be the first time a fee of this size has had such a basis in potential.
When Cristiano Ronaldo made his £80 million move to the Madrid, he was the absolute stand-out player in a Manchester United team that had made consecutive Champions League final appearances.
When Gareth Bale went for just a few million more in 2013, he had been the man single-handedly keeping Tottenham Hotspur’s European qualification hopes alive. Meanwhile, Pogba, while a stand-out player in a very good Juventus player, has not yet had the same impact as these players.
One could cogently argue Tevez and Vidal to have been more vital cogs in that team. Therefore, the £71 million paid for Pogba will get one of these clubs a fabulous player. It will not though get an assurance of a game-changing superstar but rather a hope that if he continues to build upon what we have seen so far, he will become one.