Moneyball gone Terribly Wrong

Pogba's price tag must be the transfer that proves spending big doesn't mean you get the best.

Money in the world of football has become a big talking point within the game. Be it transfer fees, ticket prices, imaging and TV rights, or even the odd FIFA related bribing scandal, the financial element of the game will now always be questioned. With figures nearly exceeding £100,000,000 for a single player it’s beginning to feel that clubs can demand stupid money for any player within their squad. You only have to look at players like Dwight Gayle, Jake Livermore, and Robert Snodgrass who are being bought for £10 million plus. I mean, Crystal Palace bought Jeffery Schlupp for £12 million! Am I missing something here? It’s like money doesn’t have any value within the game anymore.

Of course, there are some transfers that warrant clubs splashing out large amounts of money to get their man. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, and Neymar to name a few. Even large transfer fees for the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Zinedine Zidane, Sergio Aguero and Ronaldo (the now large one) have justified the big money. But when players like Raheem Sterling, Anthony Martial, Andy Carroll and Granit Xhaka make the top 50 highest transfer fees of all time, someone has to say enough is enough.

But the player I want to focus on is Paul Pogba. The most expensive transfer of all time. Manchester United decided he was the player they would spend over 100 million Euros on. I felt putting the transfer fee into Euros would make it seem even more ridiculous. That’s just shy of 90 million pounds! Now I understand clubs can demand this amount of money for a player, but surely the buying club have to say no. Paul Pogba is not worth this amount of money. Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail said at the beginning of August that ‘English football no longer loses the best players to Spain.’ Sadly I think that’s not the case. I just think Spanish clubs weren’t willing to pay over the odds for a relatively good midfield player. I think Martin Samuel should have said, ‘Spanish clubs are now laughing at English football’.

For that kind of money you have to be the type of player that can single-handedly change a game. Players like Ronaldo and Bale can do that, let’s be honest they also do it on an International level, too. Pogba does not fall into that category. He looks the part I’ll give him that. He has the physique and the athleticism to be a world class footballer, but he seems to be falling just short when it comes to his performance levels. If he put as much effort on the pitch that he does matching his hair colour to his boots then maybe he could be.

I hear a lot of people saying he’s only young and he needs time. Unfortunately, there’s two things wrong with this statement. The first being he’s 24 and in the world of football that isn’t young anymore. If it is, then Rashford should still be playing youth team football. Plus, John Terry was 23 when Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea and he went on to captain the team to the double. The second being if you spend 90 million pounds on a player he shouldn’t need time to find his feet. Surely a high level of performance from the off is included in the price. When reading quotes like ‘paying for potential’ from Pogba’s old youth team coach Paul McGuinness I’m gob smacked. Potential shouldn’t cost 90 million, the final product costs 90 million! So how much does he think Pogba is actually worth. I’m hoping he’s just saying that to take the pressure off the player.

Look, I’m sure there will be people reading this who don’t agree with me, so let’s start throwing some stats around. Because if there’s one thing that’s not objective, it’s statistics.

In 28 Premier League games he has scored 4 goals and created 3 assists. Let’s just put this into perspective. Watford‘s Etienne Capoue and Swansea‘s Leroy Fer have both scored 6 goals this season, that’s two more than Pogba. Even defenders Gareth McAuley and Marcos Alonso are banging in more goals. Now get this, Alvaro Negredo has more assists to his name for Middlesbrough, and Nemanja Matic has double the amount of Pogba. These are pretty poor stats for the most expensive footballer in the history of football. Surely you have to agree, these numbers shouldn’t reflect a 90 million pound player? If it is then Gareth McAuley’s value must be around 150 million (bargain).

I know it’s not Pogba’s fault that a club was willing to spend that amount of money to buy him. So who is to blame for this terrible bit of business. I do believe he can be a top player but at the moment something is not adding up. For starters, I’ve never seen a player stroll around a pitch like he does. He sits deeper than Carrick, which I didn’t think possible, and racks up his passing stats by making short, simple passes. I remember when Mourinho first came to United and said this about Wayne Rooney, “You can tell me his passes are amazing – yes, they are amazing, but my passes are also amazing without pressure.” How can Mourinho say that about Rooney back in July and then just sit back and watch Pogba do exactly the same thing?

In my opinion, if a player is worth 90 million pounds he has to be a game changer. He has to bring something to the team. Pogba might get described as many things but ‘a game changer’ is not one of them. When your team’s against it and out of ideas, and you’re looking for something special, Pogba’s not your man. Hazard is, Sanchez is, Dele Alli is, Pogba isn’t.

With this in mind, I was curious to know how many of my friends, when asked to write down their current ultimate Premier League eleven, would have Pogba in their team. The answer… none out of sixteen, and he’s the most expensive player in football. It proves my point.

I hear a lot from pundits and supporters saying maybe he’s not playing in the right position, so surely it’s up to Mourinho to find that position. For me, I don’t think this is the case. Mourinho is playing him in his best position. Right in the heart of the team where he can dictate the game and influence results. So that isn’t an excuse. What I do find strange is that Mourinho will publicly criticise certain players for their lack of commitment or performance levels, but is happy to watch Pogba stroll around the pitch game after game.  Understandably, Mourinho probably feels like he can’t publicly criticise or drop the most expensive player in the world, because it would suggest Pogba’s transfer has been a failure. But maybe that’s exactly what Pogba needs to change his ways. The difference between Pogba and players like Kante is ridiculous, and Kante was a third of the price. I bet every Manchester United supporter would trade Pogba for Kante in a heart beat.

Once again it seems like Sir Alex Ferguson was spot on. Letting Pogba leave for next to nothing as he didn’t believe Pogba was worth the money he was demanding. But four years later ‘the special one’ believes he’s a 90 million pound player and deserves whatever wages he wants. It just goes to show that Ferguson is in fact ‘the special one’. How can Mourinho week in, week out moan about congested fixture lists and players being tired, when he could have used that money to bulk up his squad. The fixture list is not a surprise, he knew exactly how many games his team could have to play, so it seems barbaric to spend that amount of money on one player when the squad clearly needs improving.

Obviously, Manchester United saw this mega money signing as a quick route back into the top four. (Mourinho + worlds most expensive player = top four). But that equation doesn’t seem to have worked out like that. In fact it’s been more like, (constant moaning and excuses + over priced midfield player = 6th?).

Unfortunately, Pogba seems more concerned with his image on social media than proving himself on the pitch. If he put half as much effort as he does posting videos of himself dancing and singing then maybe I wouldn’t be writing this. I’m not the only one who thinks this, Paul Scholes called this months ago saying ‘I just don’t think he’s worth 86 million’ and I’d have to agree with the Manchester United legend. Deep down Mourinho must agree with this too, but would never say it. But in all seriousness the Pogba transfer has to be the moment that the footballing world wakes up to the insane price tags put on players. If it doesn’t who knows what price Messi and Neymar will be sold for. What’s for sure, in the summer we will definitely see the first £100 million plus transfer.

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