Chelsea FC: Is Paul Pogba the Answer to the Blues' Midfield Issues?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2014

Sir Alex Ferguson was normally sagacious when it came to Manchester United.

The breath of talent Sir Alex escorted through Old Trafford was extensive. From the heralded "Class of '92" (Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes) to Real Madrid's £80-million-man Cristiano Ronaldo, Ferguson's eye for talent was impeccable.

Yet, near the end of his illustrious 27-year reign in Manchester, Ferguson made two glaring mistakes.

The more recent of the blunders was appointing David Moyes as his successor. The former Everton boss was not capable of managing the Red Devils to their established norm and found himself unemployed after nine months.

On the pitch, however, Ferguson marginalised a talent who has proven to be the world's best up-and-coming midfielder: That prodigy being Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman made 21 appearances for Manchester United's U21 squad and came off the bench thrice for United in the Premier League. When contract talks arrived, Ferguson and Pogba could not find common ground; the young midfielder then left Manchester—signing a four-year deal with Juventus in August 2012.

Some might argue the French international was a capricious, petulant youngster who had done little to earn his place at Old Trafford, but Pogba has since proven any decision to omit him from a professional midfield was vacuous.

After just two seasons in Turin, Pogba's value has skyrocketed; valued at £5.3 million in November 2012, the Frenchmen's value is now an estimated £39.6 million as appraised by TransferMarkt. This exponential growth after merely 18 months can be explained by pace, power, skill, positional awareness and the opportunity to play.

At 21 years of age, Pogba finds himself in the envious position of having the world at his feet. With two years left on his current deal—options abound.

Should he wish to move—he could.

Should he wish to stay—he can.

Will he be paid either way? Without question.

Juventus' winsome midfielder should make no hasty decisions on his future but—no matter the notion—there are some who should want to make his choice eminently clear: Jose Mourinho and Chelsea Football Club being prime candidates.

The Blues' summer transfer needs are glaring.

Ashley Cole's absence and Cesar Azpilicueta playing out of position would suggest a left-back is paramount. Chelsea's need for a prolific striker has become a conversational path well trodden. One would imagine finding a prolific forward is priority No. 1 for the Blues this summer.

One of the less discussed needs for the Pensioners is a dynamic holding midfielder.

Frank Lampard's future hangs in the balance. The England international will turn 36 next month—suffice it to say, even if Lampard returns to Stamford Bridge for a 14th season, the legend cannot be relied upon to carry Chelsea's midfield burden any longer.

Ramires has become a scapegoat for frustration this season, as many Blues’ supporters deem the Brazilian impulsive and injudicious. That said, the midfielder is a stock Mourinho player. His qualities of pace, aggression and stamina are everything the Portuguese boss requires. However, having reached his prime, there is little room for progression.

Should you want an engine, a "jack of all trades, master of none," then Ramires is your man. Nevertheless, at 27, imagining the Brazilian international improving leaps and bounds seems irrational. In short, what he is—he will be.

The moment Paris Saint-Germain offered upwards of £50 million for David Luiz—per the Daily Mail's Neil Aston—Chelsea were in no position to reject the offer. Luiz was not playing his natural position of centre-back and was oft included as a midfielder.

With the amiable Brazilian on his way to Paris, Mourinho has lost his only viable deep-lying playmaker under the age of 35. Luiz's ability to find outlets and maraud forward eclipsed the abilities of both Ramires and Lampard at this stage in their respective careers. Yet, considering nearly £50 million was offered, Luiz's absence seems worth the price on offer.

Should the notion Nemanja Matic is an automatic selection be accepted, then Mourinho must find the Serbian international a partner in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

On Chelsea's roster you find the emerging talents of Marco van Ginkel, Lewis Baker and Nathaniel Chalobah as potential plugins. Van Ginkel seems the best option in the double pivot, yet coming off knee-ligament damage there is no telling how the Dutchman will react to the rigours of Premier League and Champions League football.

Likewise, Baker and Chalobah have massive potential but to hand either party the reins to Stamford Bridge's midfield within the next two seasons seems an elephantine gamble.

Having their incredible Parisian windfall at hand, Chelsea will have more than enough cash available for a striker and left-back, but the process of buying an integral dynamic midfielder will prove slightly more expensive. Per Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express, Juventus rate Pogba at £60 million—£20 million above the estimation of TransferMarkt.

Making an argument for a £50-60 million transfer is difficult—but not impossible.

For starters, Roman Abramovich has wagered millions on far riskier footballers than Pogba. The Russian billionaire spent just over £100 million, via The Independent's Steve Tongue, on Andriy Shevchenko, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Yuri Zhirkov, Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron—all considered flops.

The current face of Abramovich's porous transfer history is £50 million striker Fernando Torres. When you possess the bank account Chelsea's owner does you may not care so much about reputation, but if Abramovich does mind, Pogba is the perfect footballer to rectify his "big splash" record.

Next, the Daily Express' James Dickenson reported last month Chelsea have been approached by Juventus for the aforementioned Ramires. Their bid, reported to be £20 million, could be parlayed into a player-plus-cash swap with Pogba the entity coming to London. Chelsea's negotiators are on fire, securing £50 million for David Luiz as evidence—a player swap seems child's play in comparison.

Thirdly, Pogba would transition smoothly into the Premier League, his box-to-box ability suiting perfectly with Matic's more defensive approach. The Frenchman's locker is stacked with attributes, all of which Mourinho would be spoiled to control.

Pogba's inclusion would allow Mourinho to change his formation effortlessly. The 4-2-3-1 could become a 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2 with little turnover needed in the midfield—a luxury for any manager.

Last and most interestingly, Juventus have unsettled business with Chelsea. In 2013, FIFA ordered Juventus and Livorno to pay the Blues €21 million (£17 million) in damages, per ESPN FC, after dealings surrounding Romanian forward Adrian Mutu. This leads to the question: Could Chelsea turn litigation into a package deal for Pogba?

"We will forgive your debt for a discount," in other words.

In closing, Chelsea should look to North London for guidance in this matter.

Arsenal have deep pockets yet choose the miserly route more often than not—the Gunners ended their nine-year trophy drought this month. Tottenham received the largest transfer fee in history last summer and bought players who helped decrease their point total from 72 points in 2013 to 69 points in 2014.

Chelsea, who are more than capable of opening their bank vault this summer, must spend and spend wisely.

The young nucleus of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Romelu Lukaku, Kurt Zouma and Thibaut Courtois looks a brilliant spine moving forward. However, what seems absent is a youthful, world-class holding midfielder.

Should Abramovich and Mourinho be looking to find their box-to-box playmaker of the next decade, all inquiries should be directed towards Turin, Italy—with Chelsea's ultimate goal being the acquisition of Pogba's signature.

Considering there are other clubs hunting as well, any price under £50 million would represent daylight robbery.


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