Comment - Why Man Utd can justify £100m Paul Pogba deal
Paul Pogba's £100m move to Manchester United is expected to be rubber stamped this weekend and one question remains - how can the Old Trafford club justify spending so much money on one player?
It is a debate that offers up no obvious to answer and that may be because this lavish deal can only be explained when a variety of factors are brought under the microscope.
United manager Jose Mourinho may well believe Pogba is the midfielder dynamo he needs to fire his team back to the top of the world game, yet his request to hand over a world record fee for the French youngster would fall on deaf ears if sport was the only factor in play here.
Mourinho will be fully aware that Pogba is not worth anywhere near the fee they offered bring him back to Manchester four years after he left for nothing, in what has proved to be the most expensive mistake in football history.
Yet this deal has more to do with marketing potential, commercial spin-offs and potential income as it does about football decision making.
This is why it is becoming increasingly difficult for simple soccer lovers to comprehend this era of garish Premier League opulence and yet we need to open our eye to the full picture as the justification for the price tag is presented.
So instead of looking at top English football clubs as sporting franchises, we need to appreciate that they have become global businesses with agendas reaching way beyond the four corners of a soccer pitch.
“When Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli two summers ago, I was told by people close to the club that his social media activity and his big follower numbers were part of the attraction to complete the deal,” wrote former Liverpool winger Steve McManaman in his Yahoo column last month.
“It seems remarkable to even begin to suggest that top football clubs like United or Liverpool sign players based on how many followers they have on Twitter, but it is not as crazy as it sounds.
“You look at surveys and analysis from public relations companies and they all suggest Pogba is one of the most marketable sportsmen in the world right now.
“Make no mistake, these outside factors now comes in to play when United go after a player like Pogba.”
McMamanan’s comments shine a slightly different light on United’s strategy for rehiring a relatively unproven 23-year-old midfielder, with his status as one of the brightest stars in the game fuelling their belief that this deal represents value for money.
United now have an incredible total of SIXTY EIGHT major sponsors around the world paying money into their pot on an annual basis, with their record breaking £750m ten-year deal with kit manufacturer Adidas just part of a business that can comfortably afford to pay £100m for one player.
To satisfy the demands of their backers, United need players to sell their brand and in Pogba, they believe they have one of those marquee names.
His arrival would lift United’s status as a major player in the game after a few years of decline following Alex Ferguson’s retirement, with their image boost a fraction of what they think this single player could bring to their mix.
Pogba’s 13m followers on his three social media accounts will be seen by as a fresh audience they can tap into, with Pogba’s image rights deal likely to give them access to his huge online supporter base.
United skipper Wayne Rooney and midfielder Juan Mata are among those who have used their social media accounts to promote movies in the last year and that is not because they are devoted fans of the X Men or Deadpool big screen epics.
No, they have taken part in promotions to boost United’s commercial deal with 20th Century Fox movies and we can expect to see similar cross promotions moving forward.
New signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic was used as the poster boy for United’s new kit launch earlier this month and we can expect the same kind of exposure for Pogba if he arrives.
United are trailblazers in rebranding a sport that used to be the domain of the working class on and off the pitch, yet it has long since crossed over into the world of big business.
We are all struggling to comprehend what is happening to the beautiful game right now, but sports lovers are not meant to appreciate how big business works in 2016.