Do Real Madrid really need Paul Pogba to bring the best out of their system?
Chapter I: The Unnecessary lavishness of Real Madrid
‘Man of the match: Angel di Maria,’ read the words on the big screen at Estadio da Luz after the conclusion of the game. Real Madrid had just beaten Atletico Madrid 4-1 to lift their tenth Champions League title in 2014—and Angel di Maria was the star of the day.
The Argentine was Madrid’s best player that season. He was the fulcrum of Carlo Ancelotti’s 4-3-3, playing as the right-sided central midfielder in a box-to-box role. His ability to bring the ball from deep and turn defence into attack proved absolutely vital for the Blancos as they went on to win the Copa del Rey and La Decima that year. It was not only his attacking abilities that assisted Real Madrid to glory as his tenacity meant that the Blancos had defensive stability in their system.
However, by the time the new season began, he was no longer a Real Madrid player.
After having a tremendous tournament at the World Cup 2014, James Rodriguez became a star. His good looks and dashing playing style made him a heartthrob among fans—a combination that brings commercial success.
Florentino Perez can smell marketability even when his nose is jammed with cold. He bought the Colombian for a mammoth €80 million, making him the 5th most expensive player in history.
Signing another midfielder meant that someone had to go. Ultimately, it was di Maria who was shipped off to Manchester United to make room for the former Porto star. It was a move to reap commercial benefits from the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner while selling their most important player in the process.
Chapter II: Paul Pogba, the necessary lavish signing
Florentino Perez maintained his style of making flamboyant purchases ever since he was elected the president of the club for the second time. Jose Mourinho might have done a lot of wrongs at Madrid, but he made sure that he had absolute control over the transfers and, hence, no big-money and unnecessary superstars joined Real Madrid under him.
However, as the 2016 transfer window opens, Real Madrid have already been linked with several star players. One of them is Paul Pogba, a man deemed unnecessary by many quarters of the Madrid fanbase.
First of all, if reports are to be believed, Florentino Perez is, apparently, not a big fan of the young Frenchman. It is Zinedine Zidane who wants him and one can understand why.
The French manager might have won the Champions League with the club, but it was with a squad that he inherited. Right now, with the opportunity to sign new players, he wants to stamp his own imprint on the squad––and it begins with the signing Paul Pogba.
Pogba might be expensive and he might have exclusively played in the Serie A over the last four years, but whenever he is on the pitch—with Juventus, mostly—he possesses the ability that only a special talent could have.
At Real Madrid, there are three creative playmaker midfielders in Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic; two attacking midfielders in Isco and James; and one destroyer in Casemiro. None of these players are box-to-box midfielders—something Real Madrid have lacked ever since Di Maria left (and Fernando Redondo before him).
With Pogba’s signing, Real not only improve their team, but also add diversity to it. The young Frenchman is perhaps the most complete player in the world--he can dribble, pass, create, score, defend and head—and his variety would give Zinedine Zidane a lot of tactical options.
Chapter III: The Options
The former Manchester United player could be used alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Two playmakers and a box-to-box would be the perfect combination against the smaller sides, where attacking is the main priority as well as quickly getting back to defend against the counter.
This combination would be the go-to one against most La Liga teams. Pogba’s insane pace means that he could always get back in time to stop the counters of the opposition, something that James and Isco don’t do with much efficiency when fielded alongside the German and the Croat.
Another combination which Zidane could use—mostly against the bigger and tougher sides—is bench one of Toni Kroos or Luka Modric and add Casemiro to the fray, making it a well-balanced midfield that has everything: a destroyer to stop the opponent’s attack, a box-to-box to convert defense into attack and a creator to make chances and set the tempo.
However, the second combination seems like a far-fetched call as benching Kroos or Modric isn’t something Zinedine Zidane would do in a realistic world.
Regardless of that, bringing Pogba adds a lot of options to the Whites’ arsenal. He is a player that brings multiple attributes to a team and it is for this reason that Juventus rate him at €120 million.
Real Madrid have two players—Isco and James—for a position that doesn’t even exist in their system, but not a single box-to-box midfielder to complement the abilities of their midfielders and attackers. Paul Pogba might be expensive—highly overpriced even—but he would be a necessary overpriced signing, unlike so many of the ones that the club have made in the past.