Jose Mourinho: Paul Pogba’s price tag was the problem at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Jose Mourinho believes that Paul Pogba’s price tag has been the primary reason behind the criticism he has received this season.

The Frenchman, following four storming years at Juventus, was brought back to Old Trafford for a world record fee of £89m back in August.

He has been one of Manchester United’s brightest players this season, but that hasn’t stopped pundits and rival fans for chastising him for not living up to his astronomical price tag.

And Mourinho, speaking ahead of the clash with Crystal Palace, bemoaned the way in which Pogba has been received in England this year.

“I think the problem is the tag, the price tag on his back,” he said. “I hope next summer he’s not anymore the highest transfer fee and then the pressure goes to somebody else.

“If his transfer fee was half of it, everybody would say ‘what a buy,’ ‘he’s playing more than good’. But everybody expects performances according to that huge transfer fee and that brings pressure and that brings sometimes unfair analysis.

“He had very good matches, he had very good performances. He always sacrifices for the team. If I go for example to Rostov, the way he played in Rostov was amazing.

“He had little matches where the performance was not so good but normally the performance is related to the team. So when the team was very good, he was very good. When the team didn’t perform so well, he didn’t perform so well.

“So I think it’s a bit unfair. I hope next season some club beats the record with another player and then the pressure goes somewhere else.”

The price tag, that whopping sum of £89m, is just the start of why Pogba continues to run into wall after wall of criticism from the main strata of England’s footballing audience. He is probably the most marketable footballer in the country: young, stylish, bursting with confidence and an almost natural commercial appeal.

The endless adverts, promotional campaigns and even emojis have catapulted Pogba to the forefront of the beautiful game’s not-so-beatiful marketing side. He has been built up as a modern day footballing prophet – a quintessential image of where the game stands in the post-truth world of 2017: futuristic, laden with cash and, somewhat predictably, blessed with a modern, untouched kind of brilliance that transcends the standards set by the last commercial figurehead.

Of course, the main consequence of all of this is the insurmountable chasm that lies between the commercially generated image of Pogba – a crystallised, seemingly lab-created model of the ideal footballer to use in Adidas adverts – and the Pogba we see on the pitch.

Comparing the two necessarily leads to the latter feeling somewhat underwhelming, but anybody who has focused on his performances, and not the commercial wilderness that relentlessly bears his name, will tell you that the 24-year-old has enjoyed a promising 2016/17 campaign that ought to serve as a precursor for an even more explosive season next time around.

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