Paul Pogba: The Situation
As any seasoned Football Fan will know, the International break is no friend of the clubs, forced to miss our beloved clubs to watch games we have barely a passing interest in whilst also dealing with things like injuries and the “lost in translation” comments to local media. Predictably we find ourselves dealing with the later in relation to Paul Pogba v Jose Mourinho. In an interview with Sky Germany, the French midfielder issued a not so cryptic response to a question asking him to affirm his future at United, he refused and went on to issue a deliberately ambiguous riposte “who knows what will happen in the future”?
Be in no doubt, this was a calculated response, Pogba is an intelligent young man but he’s also surrounded by highly intelligent people whom he trusts unequivocally, anytime we see Raoila comment publicly about his star client then you can be confident every word has been said with the approval of Pogba, remember that the next time Mino makes your blood boil. It’s also important to understand the dynamic of Raoila’s agency, there is a Wizard behind the curtain that is the most powerful person in the sport that you’ve never heard off and that woman is Rafaela Pimenta. She is the owner of that agency and its actually who Mino works for, she is a middle aged Brazilian lady who makes an instant impression. A highly highly intelligent individual who speaks 6 different languages and who also handles the promotional side for the vast majority of her players. She does an exceptional job of monetizing everything her clients touch, everything they do has a reason which is why you can be certain those comments from Pogba were planned, rarely do they overplay their hand although i fear they might have done here.
To understand how we got here you have to go back to where it started. Cast your mind back to the beginning of last season, Utd start the season in blistering form as did Pogba, according to whoscored.com he was the best midfielder in the country for the first month of the season, then he pulled his hamstring v Basel. It was alleged at the time that Mourinho and Utd were livid with him, they had warned him against using a personal trainer which he supposedly ignored, that hamstring turned out to be much more problematic that initially thought and kept him out for months, during that time Utd dropped points v Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea. When asked about his record signing and when he would return, a vexed Mourinho would tersely reply “i don’t know”. A hamstring injury isn’t a mystery illness, it’s a common injury, how did Mourinho “not know”? Of course the answer was, Pogba was in Miami and not training at the club during his recovery, his manager understandably wasn’t happy about that.
Since then, the gloves have been off. It’s been theater almost akin to an Eddie Hearn promotion, we’ve had pantomime, histrionics and faux mutual respect, all that's missing is Eddie to tell us “these two really don’t like each other” and like many Matchroom cards, this is a fight we’d all prefer not to see. Sadly since the 89m midfielder arrived it’s been a constant ebb and flow between the ridiculous and the sublime. Pogba can seduce you with his quality then let you down with his character. Since the squabble over his hamstring injury last September we’ve had Pogba dye his hair blue before a Manchester derby, a derby were just a day before the City manager said he had been offered the midfielder in January. True or not it was idiotic to dye your hair blue before a game were reputations were on the line, Utd fans deserved better. Mourinho of course doesn’t give anyone a free punch then went on to lambast Pogba publicly v Spurs away as he was hauled off the field in a game were both he and Utd were appalling. Mourinho then refused to praise him when after winning the world cup preferring instead to point out that his performances owed as much to not having distractions as anything else, understandably it did not go down well with the midfielders camp.
Come the first game of the season and Mourinho hands Pogba the captains armband, a massive honor for anyone and for me a challenge to the newly crowned World Cup winner to show he has matured as a player and can build upon his success, he didn’t, he let Mourinho and Utd down. Just a week later Pogba faced the cameras after an atrocious performance in a 3-2 loss v Brighton and admitted his attitude wasn’t right. That quite frankly is a disgrace an i sincerely hope he was fined, this is a guy who is the clubs vice captain. When Utd sold Ince, Hughes and Kanchelskis, Cantona was asked if he was concerned and he responded “no, i’ll win the league on my own” and he came closer than any man i’ve ever seen to actually doing that. Can you imagine Ronaldo, Messi, Keane, Charlton, Robson etc ever giving an interview saying their attitude wasn’t right? They wouldn’t for one reason, they’re winners and winners care about winning more than anything else. They’re obsessed with it, they fear failure, it keeps them awake at night, they never fail due to attitude. In that one statement alone, it told me Pogba will never be a Ballon D’or winner, he will never be a leader and he will never fulfill the potential that Utd invested in. The 89m the club paid for him wasn’t for the player he was, it was for the player he promised to become, two and a half years in and this is the narrative surrounding Pogba, if he left today you’d have to say he’s been a failure.
Therein lies the dilemma for all parties. If the Frenchman wants to leave then fine but leave to who? Who would spend 100m plus and take the risks on him? If you calculate his wages and the fact you need to build a team around him then thats a massive gamble. Maybe Spain suits him, a league where you can coast through 80% of the games but if he was putting in those performances for either Barcelona or Madrid, he would be absolutely eviscerated by the media and fans alike, you’d see more white hankies than a teenagers bedroom. You also have to question the wisdom of making this comment a week after the European window has closed, why? That's the thing about all of this, its all so unnecessary, it so easily could have been avoided. Instead I see an Old Trafford being drawn in to battle limes as the club fights for its soul, it seems like everyone has to take a side. Mourinho has intelligently co-opted the fans in to his corner whilst it feels Pogba and Martial have sworn allegiances to Ed Woodward with Manchester United being the only loser. This great club deserves better, Woodward, Mourinho, Pogba, Martial etc all need to behave like professionals and do the job they were hired to do, Woodward isn’t a Director of Football, Mourinho isn’t Boylie and Pogba ain't Logan Paul. The question is, do Utd have the leadership off the field to prevent the inevitable melt down? I fear not.