Why Manchester United should swap Paul Pogba for Gareth Bale
Two summers since Manchester United forked out a world-record £89 million for their own academy graduate, Paul Pogba, they should once again consider letting him leave Old Trafford.
Edward Woodward, United’s vice-chairman, relishes a marquee signing. It is why, to some extent, he loosened the purse strings for the Red Devils to prise Pogba away from Juventus in the first place. Woodward had lost a lot of face during the turgid spells under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal and sought something to rejuvenate his diminishing reputation. His Pogba-project has failed.
What is unavoidable, though some fans would deny it, is that Pogba has not performed anywhere near his touted potential. Jose Mourinho should petition a proposal to Woodward that sees want-a-way Gareth Bale swap with the Frenchman.
Mourinho is a long-term admirer of the Welshman and seemed to suggest dialogue between the two parties were taking place prior to this season, but that soon fizzled out.
Though this move would solve none of the problems this current United team are plagued with – a shaky defence, their biggest deficiency – it would feel somewhat fitting.
Bale is the perfect mould of a traditional United player and though Sir Alex Ferguson’s legacy fades with each passing stagnant performance, the Welshman complements the ideals cherished at Carrington.
Electric, purposeful, strong and possessing the potential for the sublime are all qualities that Old Trafford traditionally reveres.
Pogba, too, can be direct, driving and pull off the unbelievable, but he is far too inconsistent. Lacklustre performances have blemished his time at Manchester and as United legend Paul Scholes succinctly quipped, he’s been “okay” far too often.
Yet just as Bale appears a perfect fit for United, Pogba is a ready-made Galactico. Madrid’s spending power has been curtailed in recent seasons, but Los Blancos as a side is still a constellation of glittering stars.
Big egos; big personalities. Not only does Pogba have both, but he has the PR that Florentino Pérez, Madrid’s president, covets.
Simply put, the Frenchman is made for magazine covers. In an increasingly commercial footballing world, Pogba’s social media following is part of his appeal.
As Madrid saw off Liverpool in Kiev, Luka Modric did not look his age. Yet at 32-years-old, Los Blancos must be contemplating a replacement. Matteo Kovacic does not have the stardust the Croatian can sprinkle and Pogba, though not like-for-like, would assimilate in Los Merengues' preferred 4-3-3 formation.
Whether or not United fans want to give up Pogba and sign Bale is a different matter. Bale’s arrival would surely signal a departure for Anthony Martial, who has repeatedly struggled to earn Mourinho’s trust. Martial is a fan-favourite at United, despite failing to perform for two consecutive seasons – his impressive and dynamic displays under Van Gaal coating over what has been successively mediocre seasons.
Given Pogba is arguably entering into his peak years, 25, and Bale is the wrong side of that age, the comparative values are not the same. In any hypothetical deal, United would have to barter for cash as well as Bale in return for their central-midfielder.
With Fred, the Brazilian box-to-box midfielder, apparently close to agreeing a deal with Manchester United, letting Pogba go wouldn’t leave the Red Devils’ chronically short of midfield options.
Mourinho would have to find extra cover but with Scott McTominay supporting a leading trio of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and, presumably, Fred, just one extra man would suffice.
According to reports, Bale has confided in his close friends that his priority is to don the red of Manchester and after two failed attempts to land the Welshman – 2013 and 2017 – Mourinho should offer up this tantalising deal to tempt Madrid.