Football’s a funny old game. It wasn’t too long ago that all Premier League clubs wanted from a midfielder was a guy who could run around a bit and kick a ball semi-accurately over ten metres.
However in the globalized, market-sensitive game the players must now be part footballer, part catwalk model, part company spokesman and full-time, squeaky-clean role model.
When Manchester United re-signed Paul Pogba from Juventus for a record £89 million they were paying for much more than a box to box midfielder. They were buying a one man brand.
Outsite of the world superstars of Messi and Ronaldo, Pogba is probably the most marketable footballer on the planet. From his famous dab celebration to a music video with Stormzey and a highly lucrative contract with Adidas, Pogba has everything a global brand like Manchester United could want.
Shirt sales following the first three weeks of his signing topped £190 million and he became the first footballer to have an official Twitter emoji, something making him even more insufferable to a City fan like me.
But how sustainable is the marketing effort surrounding Pogba when so much of his appeal relies on his performance on the pitch every week? In his first few months in the Premier League Pogba struggled to have an impact on the games, causing much mockery on Twitter (from me mostly).
Although performances have improved there was always the risk that the signing wouldn’t work out and Manchester United would struggle to get any return on their investment off the pitch. After all, who wants to buy a product endorsed by an underperforming athlete?
Another risk in staking so much of the clubs overseas appeal in one player is the risk of personal scandal.
Pogba was recently celebrating his sides League Cup win with friends in a restaurant in Manchester when an argument happened. A plate was alleged thrown at Pogba’s head when he declined to sign an autograph.
Although this incident was handled well by both player and club, it highlights the risks facing the one man brand. Pogba is forever one mistake away from embarrassing the club that broke the transfer record to bring him in and ruining his personal bankability.
Perhaps it’s time to dust off the old saying: no player is bigger than the club.
Picture by the excellent http://www.stanleychowillustration.com/