The Guardian is reporting that Manchester United are ready to pay Juventus £92m plus £18m in agent’s fees to land Paul Pogba. Further details emerged that United will buy Pogba’s image rights and including those rights plus salary, Pogba will earn £15m a season (£290k a week) playing for United. It’s a deal which shows the power of the Premier League and also the lunacy.
Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to Pogba is that in all my years watching football I have seen dozens of players compared to Patrick Vieira but only Pogba comes close. This isn’t a physical resemblance, though both are tall and lanky, it’s more the combination of power and elegance with a dogged determination which makes the comparison.
Vieira didn’t get many assists and didn’t score many goals but he linked play from the back four to the creative players, while shielding the defense. And when he did bomb forward, the result was often spectacular. I have one of 11 Cannons’ drawings of Vieira on my wall, it’s a rendering of the moment that he scored that goal against Spurs at White Hart Lane. The goal that helped Arsenal win the League at White Hart Lane during the Invincibles season. Vieira was the heartbeat of the Invincibles team and I have no doubt that Pogba will be the same for this United team.
How much would Arsenal supporters pay to have a Vieira back in the squad? How much you got?
But how much Arsenal supporters would pay and how much Arsenal and Arsene Wenger would pay are two different things. Two vastly different things.
Down the years it has often felt like Jose Mourinho is Arsenal’s greatest ever troll and this season is no different. With United stocked with young talent up front in Martial and Depay, and Arsenal supporters begging their manager to buy a striker and a wide forward, Jose went out and scooped up Zlatan and the much-prized Henrik Mkhitaryan. Meanwhile, Arsenal activated Jamie Vardy’s release clause only to have the England international choose to stay at Leicester.
And now, United are set to break the records for Paul Pogba. So, it’s no surprise that when I tweeted that the Pogba deal is bad business the Arsenal fans were livid. They are dying for their club to do some similar bad business.
What I mean by bad business, I specifically said it could be the worst deal in the club’s history, is that United are paying Juventus over £100m to buy back a player they let go on a free four years ago. No matter how people spin the deal, Man U lost £100m because of Fergie’s hubris.
And not only the transfer fee, which includes an obscene £18m just for the agent, bringing the total to £108m, the salary of the player at £290k a week, £15m a year, means that over four years, Pogba will cost the club £168m.
But Man U is a Cayman Islands based business and they can easily absorb a £100m transfer loss. United were third on Deloitte’s rich list last season and are tipped to be the richest club in the world next season, thanks to a new Premier League television deal, new shirt deals, and other merchandising efforts.
But even for the richest club in the world, spending £100m isn’t a drop in the bucket. That is about 1/4 of their last reported turnover which was £395.2m for the fiscal year ending in 2015.
But so what? What do fans care as long as their team is winning?
It is true. Man City and Chelsea fans have proven that fans don’t care how much debt their club accrues, how much players cost, how much their agents make, they don’t care about financial fair play, and they don’t care about League equity or competition, they just want to win. With all the spending this season, Leicester City’s fairytale is looking like it will go down in Premier League history as a blip — as the traditional big four get back to the business of being the best clubs in the League. Does anyone think Leicester will win the League again this year?
Maybe they shouldn’t care. These big clubs like Chelsea and Man U can even absorb the loss of Champions League revenue and still go on to spend £108m on Paul Pogba. No one folded. No one is in threat of relegation. For the biggest clubs it’s back to business as usual. For the smaller clubs, they will be able to compete, but only at the same level they always have been able to compete.
And for the fans who were hoping that the increased TV money would go back to the supporters in the form of lower prices on tickets, and on a more Bundesliga like fan-friendly atmosphere at the games, the money is all going to exactly where they always feared it would: to agents and players. The group Supporters Direct issued this plea last season
Our member supporters’ trusts in the Premier League have been campaigning strongly and vociferously for lower ticket prices – particularly given the effect that these broadcasting deals are having on kick-off times.
Clubs have lowered away prices, and Arsenal are offering a further £4 reduction in prices for away fans. But if Raio Mineola is paid £18m in agent’s fees for the Pogba deal, that would mean that Pogba’s agent alone is set to eat up 62% of Man U’s increased TV money (£29m) for one season.