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Is Maguire’s transfer fee making us think he is better than he is?

I wonder, is the transfer fee paid for
Harry Maguire working in reverse?

I don’t know if anyone has told you, but Manchester United paid £80million for Maguire, a world record fee.

Usually, the lazy narrative, knee jerk reactions and Danny Mills insight around big fees is ‘can he live up to his price tag?’ or ‘is he worth the money?’

Well let’s take our shoes off and sit cross legged. Unplug from our phones and don our thinking hats. Can we touch base offline, reach out and circle back to peel the onion on this, yeah. Have Man Utd looked at the impact Van Dijk has made and tried to replicate it?

I think there maybe a little bit more to this than meets the eye. Its all in the mind people! Wake Up! Virgil Van Dijk is seen as imperious. He’s tall, good looking, classy on the ball and can actually defend. Pundits and commentators fall over themselves to comment on his latest act on the football pitch as being Godly. Genuinely, against Man City in the Community Shield, the generic cross back for Matips goal almost caused Jamie Redknapp to spontaneously combust! I can’t be alone in thinking that they over hype Van Dijk performing the simplest of tasks when they say they can’t believe a centre back can do that. I personally expect all players on the pitch at Premier League level, regardless of their position, to be able to adequately perform numerous differing techniques as and when required. Wait, what was my argument again? Ah yes, because Liverpool had serious problems i.e Lovren at the back, coupled with the high price tag they paid, has this decorated our opinion of Van Dijk? He is now one of the best in the world, but when he first joined did this led the opposition to overthink it, to be scared, to change their game because of the fee and the hype? If he had been £30million would he have had the same impact? When Mourinho was in charge the rumours were Maguire was available for £50million. Was that too low?

Maguire was good against Chelsea. But was he Man of the Match? Is the PR department going into overdrive to make it seem like he is the Lord and Saviour of defending? Am I lazily asking lots of questions because I don’t have much time this morning but still want to get my point across? Can I get to 6 out of 6 emails in the mailbox? Can I become a football writer? Who is Keyser Soze? How long does it take to boil an egg?

So why did I start talking about Maguire and ended up praising Van Dijk. The transfer fee! Boom! You’ve been mind coached.

TJ (The first time a Man Utd matchday squad did not include Darmian, Rojo, Jones or Smalling since 2015! Maybe it’s just that!) 

What makes an icon?

After seeing the mail get published asking why Pogba didn’t get the same level of respect that Cantona once did I said to myself, lets just sit back grab some popcorn because this is going to be fun.  The responses were spot on and I would imagine some were written from the desks of 40+ year old football fans who were kind enough to offer their nostalgic insight into the man himself.  And speaking as one of those who remember watching him somehow drag the team around him over the finish line with the 3 points in hand week after week, I have to say his legacy is one which stirs up feelings of football purity from “my generation” and I’m guilty of myself saying clichéd phrases such as “back when football wasn’t all about money..” “back when you had players who cared about the club” which infuriated me when I was young when my dad and his friends would say something similar.

In a blatant plug to Daniel Storey’s book “portrait of an icon” Daniel does a great job looking for the reasons behind these flawed, brilliant, sometimes complicated but always entertaining geniuses who have blessed our game.  Uncle Bobby, Totti, Maldini, Rivaldo, Zidane, Best, Cantona, Henry, Shearer etc. all did something special that excited the soul and transformed a fantastic footballer (or manager) into an iconic figure in the game.  They connected with the fans in some way, they became part of the reason why we love the game and why football transcends generational gaps.  To see a 70year old and a 18 year old talk about football for hours on end is a fascinating insight into what has changed in the game but also what has remained exactly the same and that’s how it makes us feel when we watch it, what it stirs up in the pit of our stomach and why its so addictive.

Taking this back to the initial questions about Pogba, can we really compare him to other icons at this stage of his career? He has great promise and undoubted skill at times but he still has plenty of time to become the Icon that his brand already thinks he is so I don’t want to write him off just yet.  There have been hundreds of footballers who over the years have flirted with icon status but just didn’t have what it takes but that didn’t diminish them as players it only added to the familiar “what if…” talk down the pub.  What if they didn’t party until 3am, what if they spent more time on the training pitch then on their Instagram account, what if they were played in the correct position or under a manager who really nurtures their talent etc.  To give a little perspective I remember vividly how much Ronaldo frustrated the fans in his first season for united, he fell over all the time, was selfish and in my mind was too raw to really ever be a decent player…time can make fools of us all.

The path to football icon status is littered with stories of exceptional players who for one reason or another never quite managed to fulfil those incredibly high expectations we have of them when we place them on that pedestal.  Maybe that’s going to be Pogba and this is his peak and we have already seen the best of him or maybe, just maybe, in 10years we will look back fondly on his career and what a tremendous impact he had in rebuilding the united team who were a sleeping giant after the retirement of another footballing icon Sir Alex. So maybe we will all laugh about how so many people wrote him off so early but one thing is almost a certainty, we will still be talking about him because it’s football and we bloody love it.

To continue this theme back into the mailbox, who of this current crop of Premiership footballers are potential icons at their clubs? Aguero, Kane, D.Silva, De Gea? Or to flip it on the head, who of your teams supposed icons do you disagree with most?

Dave B, Hull


Dear F365

Regarding squad depth and rotation that has been discussed a lot in the mailbox recently (see Saminhio), Guardiola has really learnt to master the art.  It puts him at a distinct advantage over other managers in the league.  Some may say that this is because City have deeper pockets but if you look more closely at the way he operates, you will see that there is much more to it than that.  An obvious example is his treatment of Augero and his willingness to initially drop him.  Aguero knuckled down and fought for his place; but at the same time realised that he had to share that place to some extent with Jesus (and Sterling).  Notice last Saturday, Pep started Jesus, thereby sending out a message to both players that the place this season is there to fight for.   This approach has been replicated across the squad in virtually every position (save perhaps the goalkeeper).

It helps a lot that Pep wants to win every game and every trophy, thereby enabling him to rotate positions and ensure most of the squad get games regularly.  It also helps that he  is happy to mix up the first 11 and not necessarily pick his “best” players for each and every game (see Foden’s start against Tottenham and Mahrez against Brighton at the end of last season).  This approach takes a lot of balls but also shows he has complete faith in all of his squad.

This approach puts him at a distinct advantage over every other club.  It means that any new players coming into the team know they have a good chance of earning a starting birth.  This cannot be said of Tottenham and to a lesser extent Liverpool.  Any striker coming into Spurs know that they are going to play second fiddle to Harry Kane….  But is Kane any better than Augero.  Probably not.   The same can be said for Liverpool’s front three.

This means that Guardiola can complete on all fronts; the squad are all pretty much match fit, he can comfortably rest players; players are not becoming disgruntled and perhaps most importantly he can specifically buy in and play players for certain matches against certain opposition.

There is really not very much between the very best managers tactically wise but being able to properly manage an entire squad that is completely at your disposal is something that sets Pep apart from the other managers in the EPL.

Rosie Poppins

Pogba ‘hasn’t got the balls’ to succeed at Man United…

In response to Minty, LFC’s claim the Pogba doesn’t have the balls to stand up and be counted, I give him the all but forgotten elbow in the face he gave Azpilicueta in the 1st half on Sunday. An elbow that was blatantly brushed under the carpet by another premier league referee completely out of his depth, an elbow that should have resulted in a straight red card for the much maligned world cup winning Frenchman. God forbid man u would be reduced to 10 men on the first day of the season at old trafford.

Baz, Dublin

Pogba v Cantona

I felt I had to wade in regarding the Pogba vs Cantona ‘debate’. Well more on the Pogba bashing, because I have no interest in comparing two completely different players, who play different positions, and live in different times, for a club which is not in the same shape as it was 20 years ago. Ved Sen suggests that “Pogba puts more effort into becoming a star, than becoming a better player” and “Pogba seems much more focused on his fans”. I would like to know how many of Pogba’s training sessions Ved has been present for throughout the years to come to this conclusion? If it’s more than zero I would be very surprised. Happy to be corrected, but I haven’t seen one story about Pogba not working hard in training. Furthermore, most of the stories and quotes from colleagues are that he’s a great teammate.

Then Minty shows up with “he hasn’t got the balls to stand up and be counted in a physically intense game with pressure on the ball”. What like against the Argies in the world cup? Or Uruguay in the quarters? Or Belgium in the semis? Or Croatia in the final? Check out the player ratings for those games, he stood up and was counted then alright. That he hasn’t done it enough in the bigger games for Utd is partly down to him and partly to the team in general not being good enough. The second half of that City 3-2 comeback he was great though for a specific example. And he was excellent during our good run last season.

Ved says that Djemba Djemba would look good if he was flanked by Iniesta and Kante, maybe so. But Iniesta would struggle if he was expected to carry a team in a MF with Djemba Djemba and Kleberson and questionable quality in other positions. Chances are he would show flashes of brilliance with mixed results. A bit like Pogba over the last few seasons. He’s not good enough to carry a team on his own for long periods, but I would ask is any player? Ronaldo (old and less old), Messi, Zidane, Cantona, Ronaldinho, Cruyff, Xavi, De Bruyne etc all had/have quality around them and were able to come up with moments of magic when/if required. I’m not comparing Pogba to any of these, so hold off on the needless haranguing, but he hasn’t had the required quality or team around him recently. Hopefully that is changing. For me the one outlier to this is Maradonna, with Napoli especially, and that’s why I believe he is the GOAT – but that’s another argument for another day.

In conclusion he hasn’t been consistent (or arguably good) enough, but he is our best outfield player at the moment, he is a great player to have and we aren’t as good when he doesn’t play.

Garey Vance, MUFC 

I think Eamonn from Dublin has already been comprehensively put in his place, but one point that seems so far to have been missed is that Cantona was funny. Yes, he was preening, arrogant and aloof but we all knew (and he knew we knew) it was all a bit of a joke. Who took him entirely seriously when he puffed out his chest after scoring against Sunderland? Who didn’t chuckle when he spouted his seagulls nonsense? The man was top quality entertainment as both a footballer and a celebrity. By contrast, Pogba is witless, unoriginal and altogether rather boring.

Matt Pitt

Homegrown players

Well done the Blades, Burnley and Bournemouth for (probably) having over 20 homegrown players in their squads for a Premier League season per your predictions.

I wonder how many of these three will go down and how many will be challenging for Europe? I reckon 1 (not the Blades) and none.

Big boo’s to Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Leicester, Citeh, Norwich, Watford and West Ham for having the (probable) maximum number of non-homegrown players.

Same question? I reckon 3 and 2. Boo and hooray!!!!

Bladey Mick

Pochettino and his defence

Pochettino seems to have a thing for pissing off his best defenders. He has 2 of the 4 best center backs in the league in the Alderweireld and Vertonghen (Laporte and Van Djik are the others) yet spent last year benching Alderweireld and now looks to be doing the same to Vertonghen. At 30 and 32 respectively they both could play at the top level at the heart of Tottenhams defence for the next 2 or 3 years, why fix what’s not broken? I get theres a lot of factors to play into it and Poch is certainly more qualified than me to judge bit just seems a bit strange.

Aaron. CFC. Ireland. 

Can a footballer quit their job?

Short answer is yes, they can. Like any other job, anything else would be forced labour. The difference between a footballer and any other job is this: when a club buys a player, they aren’t buying the actual person but instead they are buying the player’s registration – their right to play. The negotiation of the salary is then about how much the player wants to actually play for the team (there’s no point having one without the other).

When you look at it like this, a player can absolutely quit a football club (see Stan Collymore – Osasuna). Unfortunately for that player, s/he wouldn’t be able to play for another club until their registration had been transferred.

Hope that helps!


Excuses excuses

Paul (…), on holiday, you’ve come up with seven excuses for defeats and not blamed the referee/ VAR even once??

Sorry, son, it’s back to Premier League Manager school for you. Rookie error.

Chris Bridgeman, Kingston upon Thames

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