The battle between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho has well and truly begun.
Manchester City have countered the Red Devils’ signing of Paul Pogba, confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, by announcing the arrival of John Stones.
Pogba becomes the most expensive player in football history, United paying Juventus a reported £93.2 million, while Guardiola has spent £47.5m to bring Stones to the Etihad.
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All that’s left is for the football to get underway.
GiveMeSport has crunched the numbers and studied the tape to assess who has got the better deal. We’ve looked at the cost, importance, talent, potential and return on investment of both players, and we’ve been left with a (hopefully) definitive answer.
United came just £6.8m short of breaking the £100m pound barrier. They’ve spent nearly double the amount City did on Stones but the market for defenders is cheaper than it is for midfielders and attacking players.
The England international becomes the world’s second-most expensive defender, falling just short of the £50m Paris Saint-Germain paid Chelsea for David Luiz in 2014.
It’s hard to find a clear winner - both clubs have spent an extortionate amount of money - but we’re giving the edge to Stones on this one purely because £93.2m is, frankly, an obscene amount of money.
City 1 United 0
Stones burst onto the scene in 2013 after completing his move from Barnsley, establishing himself as one of the brightest talents in the game. His composed style was reminiscent of a young Rio Ferdinand.
But the 22-year-old has failed to kick on in the years since, a number of mental errors creeping into his game. He’s been complacent and relies too much on his ball-playing ability, when a no-nonsense style would be best in certain situations.
Meanwhile, Pogba went from strength to strength in the four years he spent at Juventus. There’s a reason Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona were all interested in signing him; he was included in 2015’s UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA FIFPro World XI.
Although we expected more from him at Euro 2016, Pogba is on another level to Stones at the moment.
City 1 United 1
Guardiola has waited some time to bring in a much-needed centre-back, but he’s signed one that suits his style.
And it’s likely that Stones will see plenty of minutes in his debut season. Vincent Kompany cannot be relied upon to complete a full season, while Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi are not of the required standard.
Mourinho admitted last week that he was signing a midfielder and it’s easy to see why. Louis van Gaal brought in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ander Herrera and Morgan Schneiderlin but neither have settled at the club.
So United’s centre-midfield position has been addressed.
However, City’s defence has been an Achilles heal for too long. Guardiola has helped paper over the cracks with the addition of Stones and he figures to play a crucial role this season.
City 2 United 1
Both players have the ability to become elite stars in the modern game. They’re young and are now playing under managers who can turn them from prospects into the best players in Europe.
Where Pogba is concerned, we’ve seen glimpses of what he can become. And it’s pretty special.
The United midfielder doesn’t have as much room for improvement as Stones, who needs to remove the errors from his game. If not, then Guardiola won’t hesitate to bench him for Mangala or Otamendi.
Pogba, labelled “one of the best players in the world” by his new manager, gets the nod.
City 2 United 2
Return on investment
United have a plan in place to turn Pogba into a global superstar. You only had to see the Adidas marketing campaigns to witness the potential for the Frenchman to become the face of everything United-related.
He has nearly 5 million likes on Facebook, while Stones isn’t even on the social media site.
Though United spent a great deal to sign him, the Times’ claim the Red Devils could recoup £40m in his first season at Old Trafford after fighting to earn 80 per cent of his image rights.
And in shirt sales, the club will make a huge sum of money.
Meanwhile, Stones is low down on the list of players City will feature in their commercial activities.
United paid so much on Pogba knowing that they wouldn’t struggle to recoup the money. There’s only one winner.
Final result: City 2 United 3
Though the costs are highly questionable, Mourinho and Guardiola have both addressed gaping concerns ahead of the new Premier League seasons.
But the Portuguese has got the better deal here. Pogba is one of the best midfielders in the world, with the potential to become a Ballon d’Or winner.
Guardiola will vastly improve Stones but it could take a few years before we see him blossom into a world star.
In that time, United will have recouped the money they spent on Pogba and will quite possibly be competing for the Champions League trophy again.