Paul Pogba: I Am 'Judged Differently' After £89M Manchester United TransferJune 11, 2019
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has attributed criticism he receives to the £89 million transfer fee the Red Devils paid to sign him.
United made Pogba the most expensive player in the world when they brought him back from Juventus in 2016, though the deal has since been surpassed by Neymar and Kylian Mbappe's moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona's captures of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Pogba told Matt Dickinson on the LifeTimes podcast (h/t Goal's Ben Spratt) released on Tuesday:
"Because it was the biggest transfer in history at the time, you get judged differently. They expect more from you because of the price tag.
"A good game would be a normal game. A top game would be a good game."
The Frenchman explained his belief that forwards such as Neymar and Mbappe, whose influence on games is sometimes more obvious than a midfielder's, get less criticism because of their roles as goalscorers.
On the criticism, he added:
"I knew it would come with [the price tag]. I knew there would be a big impact. But I didn't know it would go so negative. When I signed, I wasn't used to seeing so many negative comments.
"It was a big change. I was surprised. I didn't know a price tag would change so much for people.
"Maybe they think I have the money. It's not me—I don't have the money. I don't know [the reason for the criticism]. I wish I knew so I could help them get the answer."
He also spoke of the negativity aimed at him at various times for his haircuts:
The 26-year-old has produced 31 goals and 29 assists for United in 135 appearances since he returned to the club.
He has repeatedly shown he can be a match-winner, but as James Robson of the Evening Standard observed, consistency has been an issue:
Squawka's Muhammad Butt has taken issue with criticism of his ability to perform in big games:
Muhammad Butt @muhammadbutt
is this a joke? Pogba has played in a CL Final (2015) an EL Final (2017) and a World Cup Final (2018). he dominated and won the last two. he also, half-fit, helped Juve beat Madrid in the CL semi-final back in 2015. he's also two years younger than Hazard and a midfielder. https://t.co/wNhdzbK0ad
Pogba only made seven outings for the Red Devils before moving to Juve in 2012 as a teenager.
While Juventus are an enormous club, there was perhaps less scrutiny on him in Turin than there has been at United. Given he was younger, his critics may also have been more forgiving of the flaws in his game.
Pogba is now at a prime age, and given his obvious ability, it's understandable some might be frustrated with his struggles to show it every week.
A large transfer fee will inflate expectations, but a big price tag doesn't eliminate the weaknesses in a player's game, and United should have been aware Pogba wasn't the finished article when they signed him.
Players are not responsible for their price tag—if they struggle to justify it, clubs should bear as much of the criticism.
Pogba is perhaps also suffering from being the best outfield player in United's squad at a time when the team have been in decline.
He's one of the only top players fans can turn to when the team underperforms, and he gets more than his fair share of the blame if he has struggled alongside less-heralded team-mates.