Few professional football players divide opinion quite like Paul Pogba. The Manchester United player is far from being universally loved by fans at Old Trafford, and yet the relationship between fans and player is arguably misconstrued by the media. The majority of United fans are well aware of the talent Pogba possesses. They know he trains hard and that he is usually in top condition. They don’t believe he is lazy, nor do they think he lacks dedication. Frustrating, yes. Lazy and undedicated, no. Several pundits in the media claim that the opposite is true.
For a couple of years now, there has been a transfer maelstrom around Pogba. He doesn’t always help the cause with his comments, nor does his agent, Mino Raiola. And, recently the transfer talk has been ramped up once again. Reports in The Sun, Express and Manchester Evening News in mid-May claimed Pogba was “on the verge” of a “stunning” move back to Juventus. Adrien Rabiot has been touted a makeweight to “sweeten the deal”.
Pogba backed to stay
But we’ve lost count of the number of times Pogba was set to move. If not Juventus, then Real Madrid or PSG. And yet, for all this huffing and puffing by the media, the bookmakers have a very different view. According to the sports betting odds at 888 online, Pogba is odds-on (3/10) to stay at United and start the new season. A move to Juventus is a cited at 5/2, Madrid at 3/1 and PSG at 5/1. Bookmakers are not stupid. If Pogba were “on the verge” of a move to Juventus, they would not offer punters the chance to more than triple their money.
Of course, betting markets can change in an instant. As soon as bookmakers get wind of a real transfer deal happening between Pogba and another club, those odds will drop dramatically. If they are really sure, they might remove the market altogether. But as you can see from the above, that’s certainly not the case.
The truth about Pogba, however, is that his story is an easy one to tell. For pundits, it’s all too facile to portray Pogba as the villain in Manchester United’s pantomime. For years now, the ‘old school’ pundit class have been banging on about Pogba’s hair as if it has some bearing on his performance. His lifestyle – doesn’t drink alcohol, eats healthy, has an Adonis-like body – is also called into question. And, his big-game mentality, which is strange for a player who has scored in a World Cup Final.
Media manufactures issues
For the media, too, the easy story is the Pogba one. The papers pick up on the manufactured reactions on social media – “United fans furious with Pogba” – and run that as a story. That, in turn, adds fuel to their own transfer stories. Pogba gives very few interviews to the press, and if a transfer story is based on a ‘cryptic’ Instagram post, then you’d best take it with a pinch of salt.
None of this is meant to sound like a glowing Pogba tribute to Pogba. The player has plenty of flaws. Perhaps one area overlooked is his erratic decision making on the pitch. He often shoots when he should pass, passes when he should shoot. He can hold on to the ball for too long, and he takes unnecessary risks when taking the ball out from defence.
And yet, ask any United fan what the main issue was under Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal and they’ll say it was the drab, conservative football. Even when he makes the wrong decisions, Pogba is the antithesis of conservative football. Always looking to play forward, take risks, score spectacular goals. The most forlorn chant from the Stretford End in the Mourinho/Van Gaal era? “Attack. Attack. Attack.”
One day the transfer stories surrounding Pogba might turn out to be true. But he still has the ability to forge out a great career at United. We have yet to see what could happen with Bruno Fernandes on the pitch beside him. The Portuguese naturally drifts right, where Pogba likes to float on the left. Having both together could help United build the devastating pivot for attack the fans so desperately crave.
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