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Paul Pogba: the most overrated player of this generation?

Pogba playing for Juventus in 2014
Pogba playing for Juventus in 2014

Even if one has no interest in football whatsoever, it’s still easy to appreciate that £89m is an enormous amount of money. Twenty years ago this could have bought you nearly six Alan Shearers, thirteen years ago three and a half Ronaldinhos and a decade ago around four and a half Thierry Henrys. Now it buys just one Paul Pogba.

When Manchester United re-signed the French midfielder for a world-record fee this summer, it appeared the perfect reunion. Not only were United making an emphatic statement of intent in the transfer market, but they had also recruited a player with potential to be amongst the world’s best. But to say that Pogba has been underwhelming so far would be an understatement. Although United fans are arguing that the Frenchman is still acclimatising to the intensity of the Premier League, it’s fair to say that when such a large amount is paid the world expects an instant impact. So, taking into account the hefty transfer fee and lacklustre performances thus far, is Paul Pogba the most overrated player of this generation?

I am not saying that Pogba is a bad player. He proved consistently over a four-year period for Juventus that he has fantastic ability, regularly scoring breathtaking long-range goals and free-kicks, while accompanying this with a passing range that belied his inexperience. Pogba has also performed impressively for the French national team, highlighted by his winning the award for best young player at the 2014 World Cup. When combining this talent with an infectious likeability and extreme marketability, it certainly seemed as if United had signed one of the world’s best talents, who could end up being both a mainstay and superstar in their team for years to come.

However, since his return to United, various newspapers have described his displays as “woeful”, citing how he is “struggling with the burden of the world record fee.” Even though it’s not Pogba’s fault that United chose to break records to sign him, it is now the central-midfielder’s own responsibility to live up to the expectations and prove that United were right to splurge £89m on him.

Pogba against Zorya Luhansk in September
Pogba against Zorya Luhansk in September

Generally, in spite of the occasional nightmare (as against Chelsea and Watford), Pogba hasn’t been bad. The main problem is inability to assert himself within a game. Case in point, against Liverpool on 17th October. This was the perfect opportunity for Pogba to prove he genuinely is a world-class player. Under the floodlights of Anfield and with the biggest Premier League television audience in over three years watching him, Pogba just fell flat. He didn’t necessarily do much wrong, but made little impact on the game and frankly cut an anonymous figure – the opposite of what United expected when they signed him.

Many would argue that few players, with the exception of existing greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are worth nearly £90m . When Real Madrid broke the world record fee for Gareth Bale in 2013, it seemed a huge risk. Bale may have struggled initially at Madrid but ultimately managed to make his mark on the team, evidenced by an outstanding solo goal against Barcelona in his first season. This should give hope to United fans that their Frenchman could do the same. Aged only 23, Pogba has plenty of time to come good and be the midfield dominator that United have been missing since Roy Keane’s departure over a decade ago.

Even if Pogba fails to improve, I don’t think that the United board will be overly fussed. He is managing to sell the most shirts this season and his copious sponsorships are a marketing dream. He may be overrated at the moment but with the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly, at least on paper it seems as if Manchester United have a world-class team in the making.