Pogba ‘back home’ at Man Utd in world-record transfer

PARIS: This file photo taken on July 10, 2016 shows France’s midfielder Paul Pogba gesturing during the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. —AFP
PARIS: This file photo taken on July 10, 2016 shows France’s midfielder Paul Pogba gesturing during the Euro 2016 final football match between Portugal and France at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. —AFP

MANCHESTER: Emerging from the shadows, Paul Pogba – a red devil emblazoned on the side of his head – removed his hood, looked straight into the camera and uttered the words Manchester United fans had been waiting to hear: “I’m back.” With that 26-second video teaser released by United early Tuesday, the France midfielder became the world’s most expensive footballer at around 105 million euros ($116 million) and England’s biggest club made another statement of intent during its latest offseason of heavy spending that moved close to $200 million.

“I just went for a holiday,” said Pogba, who left United at age 19 for Juventus four years ago, virtually for nothing when his first contract with the club expired. “I’ve come back home.” This was the new Man United at work: Breaking the world transfer record and announcing the signing after midnight local time to suit foreign audiences. A series of glitzy videos included one with a grime artist where Pogba produces some impressive dance moves.

United will hope the 23-year-old Pogba saves his best work for the football field, though. And he’s certainly dreaming big in his new era for the club under Jose Mourinho. “First of all, win the league for the first time with United because I hadn’t won the league when I left,” Pogba said. “The Champions League of course and, personally, one of my dreams is to win the Ballon d’Or (FIFA’s world player of the year award). “That will come with time hopefully, but first the Premier League – I’ve never done it.”


Pogba said he was not bothered about the world-record price tag and that his return to United, nicknamed the Red Devils, was “destiny” – and predicted by his mother. “My mum told me I would come back here and I told her, ‘You never know, you’ll see,'” he said. “For myself as well it’s a big challenge, too, just to come back to where I came from, where I grew up, where I started. I didn’t finish what I started here so I think I came here to finish it.”

United has missed out on some of its No. 1 transfer targets in previous offseasons – notably Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas in 2013 – but was determined to push this one through, even if it meant paying a fee widely regarded as overpriced. United is one of the few clubs in world football that could afford this outlay, though. And if Pogba can help the team return to the top of the English and European game after lean years since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, it will be money well spent.

Mourinho’s lineup for the new season is starting to have a fearsome look to it. The spine, in particular, is full of stars, winners and real potential – David de Gea, new 30-million-pound signing Eric Bailly, Pogba, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The front five of Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pogba has plenty of goals, power and quality in it, an upgrade on what Louis van Gaal had last season.

United has finished seventh, fourth and fifth in the post-Ferguson years, but is one of the title favorites this season. Pogba played only seven games – all as a substitute – in his first spell at United, which ended sourly when he allowed his contract to run down and joined Juventus. United got only 800,000 pounds (now around $1 million) in compensation for a player who was then just a precocious teenager.


Ferguson was unhappy with Pogba’s attitude in the last months of his contract, and didn’t play the Frenchman even during an injury crisis in the team’s midfield. For a game against Blackburn in December 2011, Ferguson played full back Rafael da Silva in center midfield along with Park Ji-sung, with Pogba on the bench. That was the last straw for a player who was desperate for a chance to impress his manager. Pogba can be sure he’ll be a guaranteed starter this time round at Old Trafford.

“Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be a key part of the United team I want to build here for the future,” Mourinho said. “He is quick, strong, scores goals and reads the game better than many players much older than he is. “At 23, he has the chance to make that position his own here over many years. He is young and will continue to improve; he has the chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.” – AP

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