We here at WAGNH have been fans of Paul Pogba for almost as long as this site has existed. Understandably, today's a bit of a sad day. And an annoying day, but more on that later.
Steve Schmidt, who's been spending the past season on loan at real life, wrote about how much of a good idea it would be to put in a very much non-cheeky bid on the then 18-year-old Manchester United prospect back in January 2012. Alas, a couple months later, Pogba chose Juventus, and moved there in the summer to join up with a certain Antonio Conte. He signed a four-year contract, which he then extended a couple years later.
By then, the links with Chelsea (and Barcelona and Real Madrid and PSG) were already basically a daily occurrence -- Captain Mino Raiola ensuring that if this HMS Cash Cow were ever to leave port, it would only do so for a world record fee. And so it came to pass, that on 8/8/8+8, Pogba set sail to the tune of £88m or so (€105m + €5m add-ons, if we want to be more exact), a new world record.
Ridiculous hashtag aside, that's exactly how you should announce a world record signing. If there's ever a time to go over the top, this is it. There may be plenty of history and supposed bad blood to revise, but when there's this much at stake, that's certainly nothing to get too worried about.
From our perspective, this one's perhaps as annoying as a transfer can get, and the feeling of a missed opportunity is palpable. After all, the final bid is very similar to what Chelsea were told to bid last summer. If reports are to be believed, we were willing to go as high at €90-95m, with wages to match, but were rejected, possibly because unlike Manchester United, who tried to get this done in July, we tried to get it done in August.
Of course, with so many rumors to wade through over the past several seasons, it's tough to know exactly what was true and what wasn't. Maybe we never had a chance, and we just talked ourselves into it and the media fed off that and helped us fall even further down the rabbit hole in a vicious, hopeful, hopeless feedback loop. Last summer, Mourinho likened buying Pogba to buying the Eiffel Tower to put into your backyard. Well, turns out it's not so outrageous after all, is it?
And let's not even get started on this whole Mourinho angle, who of course played a large role in convincing Pogba to switch. This was supposed be us, not them! You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy them, not join them. You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness!
"I am really looking forward to working with Jose Mourinho."
Mourinho, Pogba, Zlatan, the stuff of dreams for this Chelsea fan, becoming reality in Manchester. Goodbye, Paul Pogba rumors. Hello darkness, my old friend.
Is Pogba worth this much money, attention, time, effort? Maybe yes, maybe no. It hardly matters. He is box office and so are United, who should be firm favorites for the title at this point, perhaps in an epic duel with Guardiola's City.
Chelsea's ambitions are slightly less grandiose this season after last season's kick in the teeth, that's probably okay. We'll fly under the radar and maybe land a surprise or two, and challenge for the top four and build back up slowly and assuredly. But if Conte's task wasn't the hardest in Chelsea history already, it just got even harder.
P.S.: This obviously means we must not sell Mikel, ever.