Paul Pogba was the biggest summer transfer...until he wasn't. The dynamic, young midfielder with complexly crafted hair and a flair for the golazo had the biggest squads in every major league salivating over his skill and potential, but after a summer full of breaking reports that never materialized into anything but click bait, the player is still plying his trade at Juventus.
It seemed strange, as Juventus were not keen to sell but were ultimately powerless with potential eight figure offers being leveled and the player seemingly intent on moving to a new club. Barcelona seemed to be the first choice of Pogba, but of course there is the transfer ban. After a few offers from Manchester City that were astronomic in both wages and transfer fee were rejected, the rumours fizzled out and Kevin De Bruyne took the award for biggest transfer of the season (and also a very nice consolation prize for the nouveau riche Manchester side).
Just days ago, our own Arron Duckling reported on an interview in which Pogba was coy about his future, asking the rhetorical question, "Has a deal been struck with Barcelona for January?, seemingly out of nowhere, suggesting that maybe this was a possibility. Reading the tea leaves of player interviews for omens is usually a fool's errand, but it's always fun to speculate, regardless of the fatuous nature of it all. Now, however, Italian media outlet Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that the two clubs have already struck a deal to be carried out in January. The report states sources in Spain and Italy pointing to an agreement between Juventus and Barcelona for a January transfer, with the player's heart always being with Barcelona.
So how much should we believe this? Really, we shouldn't believe anything until we see it, but there are some reasons that this could work out. Some of the best clubs in the world, particularly the biggest club of the player's home country, were offering incredible sums of money and each one was quickly and calmly turned down. It would seem that the deal would already be done if Barcelona were able to register the player, so it would not at all shock me to know that they had agreed he would come in January. The problem there would be that Pogba would then disqualify himself from playing in the UCL. However, as I have promulgated via the comments section before, Juventus could very well get knocked out of the tournament before the end of 2015, as the squad from last year has changed drastically and they face the proverbial "group of death" just to make it to the final 16.
If that happens, Pogba has no chance to play in the UCL regardless of his decision, which could make a move to Barcelona easier. Further, he has taken on more responsibility as players like Pirlo and Tevez have left (he actually took Tevez's 10 jersey and said he wanted to learn to pass like Pirlo), which has allowed him to grow, but also makes life more difficult because the player is still only 22 years in age and is now expected to do it all for his club. Barcelona were also relatively quiet in the market, no doubt due to their transfer ban, but potentially because they also want to make money available to sign a player as expensive as Pogba.
It does seem to make a little less sense to move in January, but the signs are hopeful for the Pogba advocates out there. It's not absurd to think he would want to work his way into the squad more slowly for half a season, which would allow him to learn the Barcelona system and not directly take many minutes from veterans like Iniesta, at least not immediately. In the end, the player's desires and intent will likely remain a mystery, perhaps right up until he makes a decision, and even then we won't know exactly what factors were taken into account.
As we've debated which midfielder, if any, should join when the ban is lifted, I won't go into too much detail here, but I think it would be a good signing for the club. The main issues fans have expressed are his price and agent, his playing style, and the sacrifice of La Masia graduates on the altar of galactico signings. For me, the price and agent are unsavory but almost omnipresent in the modern game of football and not something that should scupper the deal.
For La Masia, there is simply no one else who compares to Pogba, and with potential future issues coming from new FIFA investigations it is possible that the youth system will need a serious overhaul and may take years to recover. Finally, Pogba is the box to box dynamo that is a new part of Barcelona's system under Luis Enrique. I do think certain midfielders, specifically Verratti and Gundogan (who has looked fantastic in Thomas Tuechel's more possession based system), could be more of the controlling, possession recycling mid that Barca have always had, but that doesn't mean that Pogba cannot learn to adopt certain skills into his repertoire.
He has shown a desire to add pieces to his game every year, which he has done very successfully. Of course, his all-world athleticism is the first thing that jumps out, but his skills are continuing to grow and as mentioned before, half a season of working himself into the system could set him up to become a starter for the Blaugrana in 2016. Although he doesn't have every Barca quality right now, he is one of the best dribblers in the game and wins the ball back in the opposition's half better than almost anyone in football, which certainly would immediately fit into Lucho's system.
Everything will remain conjecture for now, but the pieces do seem to line up for a Pogba move in January. I do think there are certain midfielders that bring more of a Barcelona quality right off the bat, I do think the fee and wages are a turn-off, and Raiola is not the best agent to have to work with, but the simple fact is that there are no other midfielders in the world with his combination of age, skill, physicality, and ambition, with a clear desire to grow more every year as an all-around player (potential).
Also, with seemingly every player in the world wanting to lace up boots with Messi, it would be a good time to take advantage of that to stock the squad for the seemingly impossible future where he is no longer the best player in the world. Of course, the major clubs in the world will keep making astronomical offers for the player and a lot of things still have to happen to make it a reality, but I would gladly welcome Pogba as a Blaugrana, and I believe it's only a matter of time before we do.