Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez likes to sign what he calls Galácticos, a term that sounds more like a bad Syfy movie than, you know, a real life soccer player. Usually, when he sets his sights on a Galáctico and unleashes the mighty Real Madrid machine, he gets his man.
Mino Raiola, who looks like he just missed out on a part in the Sopranos, is Pogba’s agent, and if you believe what he says, Pogba will cost 100 million euros, which would make him the most expensive transfer in history. Coincidentally, Real Madrid has broken the transfer record five times in a row. Odds are that if there is going to be a new record, Real Madrid will be the club doing the breaking.
But does Real Madrid really need Pogba? In a way, it’s an irrelevant question. Things like squad “needs” don’t often factor into the calculus of a Galáctico signing.
As a Madrid fan, I am not entirely convinced by Pogba. But given that his signing may be inevitable, I’m going to do my best to convince myself that he is the real deal and is totally worth the price of Donald Trump’s plane:
Me: Paul Pogba is a player that has a rare combination of physique and skill. You don’t often see a guy who is that big, that strong but still able to do things like the above.
Also me: But that’s what they tried to sell me on Gareth Bale, another physical freak who can do amazing things. The problem is that if you don’t have a high soccer IQ — and Bale does not — all those impressive things go out the window.
He’s long and rangy and can cover a lot of ground, which is important given that Real Madrid’s forwards leave a ton of space behind them. He’s only 22 and he’s managed to gain the respect of old salty dogs Andrea Pirlo, Giorgio Chiellini, Gigi Buffon, and Carlos Tevez — all veterans of a thousand battles.
So he won’t piss off Cristiano. Seems important. That doesn’t seem so different from Ángel Di María. Then again, I’d love Ángel Di María back.
This suggests that, contrary to popular belief, his attitude is probably pretty good. While he’s still young, he’s consistently played on a team that has gotten used to doing a lot of winning. And he’s done a lot of winning himself for the French youth national team, which he led to a World Cup U-20 victory (where he was named player of the tournament). So he seems to be a winner, if that’s even a thing.
Let’s not lie to ourselves. The winner-thing is 90 percent media lark, 10 percent ‘yeah, maybe, but even if it exists, we don’t really understand it.’
Madrid’s main problem is a lack of balance, and having such a strong physical presence will give some much needed respite for silky but physically limited players like Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, and Luka Modric. He’s also got mad swag, and is French, so he’d probably be best friends with Karim Benzema, who is also French and also has mad swag (Benzema is probably my favorite player on the squad).
All year, I harp on balance, and now a player who can actually balance team team is available, and I’m scoffing at it? Yeah, no. The two things I love more than anything in this world are myself and Karim Benzema, and if there’s a situation where I unhypocrite myself AND give Karim a new BFF, why wouldn’t I support it?
My biggest concern is that I don’t see Pogba being able to play the deep-lying playmaker role, which is what Madrid desperately needs. Kroos has been playing there, and he just can’t.
Also, I can’t remember a single time that Pogba really mesmerized in a big European match. Though Madrid’s midfield is currently built for a possession style of play, its forwards are built for counters. Pogba is clearly more suited for the latter.
So maybe that’s a good thing. Although if you look at the dominant sides of the past decade, a possession style usually wins out.