Paul Pogba’s recent transfer to Man United has been the story of the transfer window. However, the saga dragged on and on, making the ‘breaking’ news as much of a surprise as Arsene Wenger deciding to not blow the cobwebs from his wallet this summer.
United’s recent recruitment signifies a real statement of intent from the club. However, the £89 million forked out for the Euro 2016 poster boy, along with the reported £275,000 weekly wage, is not the best business Mourinho & co. have conducted. And nope, it isn’t the £250,00-a-week for a soon-to-be 35-year-old, who will be, at best, a 10-goal-a-season man. Instead, the fee for a third of the price of the Pogba deal, spent on Eric Bailly, will turn out to be the Red Devils’ signing of the summer.
Both ex-United legend Paul Scholes and Graeme Souness have criticised the fee for Pogba as he will not be delivering 30+ goals a season…
“I just don’t think he is worth £89m. For that sort of money, you want someone who is going to score 50 goals a season like Ronaldo or Messi. Pogba is nowhere near there yet.”
…which will consequently lead to winning trophies and the Premier League – perfectly demonstrated by Robin van Persie in the 2012/13 season and by Luis Suarez at Barcelona.
Pogba has found the net a total of 34 times in 178 appearances at Juventus, not a bad return for a player who will likely play in an advanced holding role under Mourinho. But they’re certainly not figures which will win titles. In contrast, the much-needed investment was required along the back line, and United found their man in Eric Bailly.
At 22, the Ivory Coast international is incredibly strong and quick, therefore, possesses the characteristics of an archetypal Mourinho player who will keep clean sheets week-in-week-out. There is no surprise that Villarreal returned to the Champions League last year with Bailly at the back, even when they only managed 44 goals. The defender also helped the Spanish side reach the Europa League semi-final, keeping a clean sheet in their first-leg against Liverpool. It’s no coincidence that in the return fixture, Bailly was absent and the Yellow Submarines leaked three goals.
Bailly was also the defender in La Liga who was dribbled past the least amount of times, in a field where world-class centre-backs such as Diego Godin, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué earn their bread.
Sure, people will point to the fact United only conceded 35 goals last season in the league (joint best), but this was purely down to the brilliance of David de Gea, who helped paper over the cracks.
Although Chris Smalling has dramatically improved, he is still too prone to clumsy defending. The most evident example is in his dismal display at St James’ Park, which consequently allowed Newcastle United back in the game last season to draw 3-3.
You’ve then got Daley Blind, a very intelligent and versatile player, but he lacks the key components to be a title winning centre-back; he is too vulnerable from set-pieces and will be torn apart by anyone with over 50 pace on FIFA.
And Phil Jones, well, the less said about him the better…
Eric Bailly has the attributes missing in Blind’s locker, whilst seeming far more composed than the sometimes haphazard ‘Mike’ Smalling. This was evident in the 26th minute against Leicester at Wembley, where he put in an excellent last ditch tackle, keeping up with Vardy, and then followed this up seconds later by clearing the resulting corner after towering over Wes Morgan.
— Helin (@MUnitedGirl) August 9, 2016
Bailly appears to be a hugely exciting prospect, and provides some much needed protection for de Gea – not that ‘Dave Saves’ needs it.
Pogba, from an entertainment and marketing point of view, is still an excellent signing. And his athleticism and ability to score a goal out of nothing will add great impetus to Man United’s midfield. Yet, he has not justified this astronomical fee. You can not say a player who failed to make a real impact at Euro 2016 is worthy of this record-breaking transfer. Ronaldo made more of an impact injured on the touchline, and Bale did more playing for bloody Wales!
When you strip back all the PR waffle and fanfare around Pogba, Eric Bailly is the best signing Man United have made, this summer. The Red Devils have finally found their Rio Ferdinand replacement.