LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 10: Rohan Ince (R) of Chelsea in action against Paul Pogba of Manchester United during the FA Youth Cup sponsored by E.on semi final first leg match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on April 10, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
Sometimes I just love writing these things, and this is going to be one of my favorites. It almost feels like I'm trolling all of the United fans out there talking about stealing one of their best prospects on a free. For those of you not familiar, Paul Pogba is a very talented midfielder out of the Manchester United academy. He arrived at the club in very Kakuta-like controversial circumstances that were cleared up between the clubs without the same level of involvement of Fifa. Since that time he's been a fixture in a very good United youth and reserve side and is generally considered to be right up there with Ravel Morrison as the top youth coming through their system. In the last week reports have begun to arise that Chelsea do indeed have some interest in Pogba from a few sources I've come to trust, and given his age and pricetag it would make some real sense.
Pogba originally hails from France and has been involved at every appropriate level of the French national team as he's been developing. Assuming he stays in England after this summer he'll eventually qualify as a homegrown player by FA standards. He's currently made three senior appearances for Manchester United, all coming in the Carling Cup. Pogba will turn 19 this March, so being on the fringes of the first team at a club like United definitely says good things about the youngster. While he's not the same type of player, he's probably a very similar level of prospect to our own Josh McEachran (and close in age as well).
From a physical standpoint, Pogba stands 6'1" tall. He's got decent pace, accelerates quickly, and his balance is first class. He's also fairly strong physically and combined with his balance he does well to fend off tackles. He's not known for being dominant in the air but he generally holds his own when challenged. One thing that's never been questioned about Pogba is his workrate, the youngster covers a fair amount of ground for a good sized midfielder. All in all he's got an exceptional set of physical traits for a Premier League central midfielder.
Technically Pogba is pretty impressive as well. He's never been noted for being a great dribbler, but his first touch and ball control are both exceptional. He's a very effective passer and is known for his excellent through balls. He's also got an absolutely fantastic long range shot that combines loads of movement with raw power. He's got some work to do with his reading of the game and defensive work, but that's not to be unexpected from an 18 year old.
Here's a little teaser video for those of you who haven't seen him in action yet:
Pogba is currently stalled in his contract negotiations with United based on the salary the player wants. The youngster is reportedly looking for a salary in the range of 45,000 per week which would be pretty large for someone who's yet to break through to the first team. While paying the youngster 45k per week may be a bit excessive, adding players of that potential on a free transfer just don't happen very often. Chelsea have had some experience with that type of deal before, giving Daniel Sturridge a pretty decent salary to tempt him from Manchester City three seasons ago.
If we do add Pogba it will result in a minor fee being decided by a tribunal. It will likely be considerably less than that of Sturridge just due to the lack of first team action, I'd guess the fee would be somewhere around 2 million if it goes that far. There's nothing to be lost by getting in contact with Pogba's agent at this point as he's free to negotiate a pre-contract arrangement should he so choose and doing so would really have no negative effect on Chelsea. If nothing else it simply drives up his salary should he choose to stay with United. There's also a chance that we simply settle a fee with United to allow him to join the club now should we come to that agreement with the player, thereby avoiding the tribunal in the process.
Paul Pogba won't be a player that turns the 2011/12 Chelsea squad into title contenders, but he'd be a cheap and talented addition to improve the club going forward. While there is no guarantee he'd ever become Chelsea quality he'd certainly add even more strength in numbers to an already loaded system. Like Oriol Romeu, there would be virtually no risk in adding him to the squad. Feel free to leave your thoughts on Pogba in the comments below, and if any United fans stop by please be nice...