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Pogbanomics: Manchester United’s calculated gamble

Here’s the $154 million dollar question: where do you rank Paul Pogba in the global football elite?

Pogba

Source: Getty Images

He’s up there, no doubt, but probably not in my top five. Give me any of Messi, Ronaldo, Bale, Neuer and Neymar before him.

In fact, I’d probably take Aguero and Luis Suarez as well. And it’s there that Pogba probably sits. Maybe on par with his French teammate, Antoine Griezmann - even if there was no contest about who had the better European Championships.

The exact ranking makes for great pub banter but may also provide the clearest window into how the dynamics - and economics - of football are changing at the pointy end.

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With Manchester United finally closing the deal for Pogba this week, shelling out £89 million (that's A$154 million) to Juventus for his services, they will do believing it to be a shrewd investment rather than a lavish spend.



Juve, having signed him for nothing from United four years ago, will be rapt. Andrea Agnelli might channel Kerry Packer: "You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime, and I've had mine".

This is the price you pay for the best midfielder in the world when he has 10 years ahead of him. Luke Modric, aged 30, might be lucky to get half the fee. Andres Iniesta at 32? Maybe a sixth, if that.

Manchester United would be expecting that in purchasing Pogba, they are sorting out their midfield until 2025. He’ll be 32 by that point - about the age Yaya Toure just dipped off the pace.

Toure cost City £24 million (A$44.26 million) but he’s been their best value signing, contributing six outstanding seasons and a so-so one in the last campaign.

They built an entire team around him, just as Arsenal did against the incomparable Patrick Viera. And United see Pogba as the player who can be exactly that for them.

Indeed, Jose Mourinho’s side are visiting the casino that is the European transfer window and putting all their chips on one player.



Let’s say they get 10 seasons from him - not unrealistic that’s how old Toure currently is - which works out at $15.4 million per season.

Performances aside, they’ll bank on making much of that back in both shirt sales and overall marketability. Don’t that underestimate either - once Zlatan goes, this is the name that will be printed on more United shirts than anyone else.

Globally, expect him to be third in "sales" to Messi and Ronaldo and they can’t play forever. There’s even an argument to say he’s the world’s most marketable athlete under 25.

There’s also some chance they’ll sell him in that period, perhaps around the age of 28 or 29, and recoup a significant amount of that investment. It’s the sort of thing a Chinese billionaire, seeking global credibility, might consider.

In buying him, United are expecting to return to the summit of the English Premier League and resuming their tenure in the UEFA Champions League. The combination of both is a licence to print money.

Winning the Champions League netted Real Madrid a cool €94 million (A$140.5 million) last year, with runners-up Atletico Madrid getting €82 million (A$122.56 million). The financial rewards of European success are very real.

Yet even that pales into comparison with what United can expect to draw in from the new television EPL TV rights deal, where each club will earn an average of £81m ($137.8 million) per year - and scaled up based on performance.



It’s difficult to argue Pogba is good value, because everything would have to go right to justify the price tag. If it does, however, it may be the right price at the right time.

Indeed, of all the deals to break £60 million, most have been solid purchases, and James Rodriguez still has time to justify his big fee at Real Madrid. When you buy quality at that level, you’re effectively buying trophies, and fixing whatever problems your side might have. Not to mention giving your brand a huge boost.

While it seems only yesterday that Alan Shearer went for a world record £15 million from Southampton to Newcastle in 1996, the game has changed. For the better? We're about to find out. Pogbanomics are here to stay.


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4 min read
Published 9 August 2016 at 4:03pm
By Sebastian Hassett