Paul Pogba has become the world's most expensive player by joining Manchester United. The fee has raised eyebrows but there are solid financial reasons to suggest he'll be worth it.
The transfer fee paid for the Frenchman's services - reported to be more than 115 million euros ($127 million) - has caused quite a stir in the football world, as fans and pundits alike express their views on the second transfer deal to surpass the 100-million-euro mark, after Gareth Bale's move from English side Tottenham to Real Madrid in 2013. Many have described it as outrageous. However, the critics have failed to take a few significant factors into account.
European football clubs are among the richest sporting institutions on the planet. According to Forbes, in 2015 three of the five most valuable teams in the world were football clubs, with Real Madrid in first place and Barcelona and Manchester United in fourth and fifth respectively. It is no coincidence that these three clubs are also responsible for four of the top five transfers ever, with Gonzalo Higuan's transfer to Juventus being the exception.
Big-money transfers make sense, at least from a financial point of view. In order to increase their global appeal, thus enhancing their money-making status, clubs have to compete for silverware. With the growing number of games being played each season making the top level of the sport increasingly demanding, clubs require a larger number of top quality players than ever before to succeed.
Furthermore, clubs in Europe have seen their financial prowess grow steadily over the past two decades, which has resulted in them having more cash to spend on players and staff. The Deloitte Football Money League suggests that Manchester United's income has increased by more than a 100 percent since the 1999-00 season - from 217.2 million euros 16 years ago to 519.5 last season. In contrast, the world record transfer fee has jumped by less than 34 percent during the same period.
Zinedine Zidane's transfer broke the transfer fee record in 2001.
Once a club generates more money, it also means that the transfer fees it pays make up a smaller portion of the club's balance. Pogba's reported transfer fee would amount to just 23 percent of the club's revenue, while Gareth Bale's 2013 transfer was a mere 18 percent of Real Madrid's total income. Looking back 15 years, previous transfer-fee record holder Zinedine Zidane's price amounted to more than 54 percent of Real Madrid's income in 2001.
In fact, four out of five of the top transfers in terms of fee as a proportion of the club's total income took place between 1999 and 2001. So in that regard, believe it or not, clubs are actually going about their transfer business in a much more sensible manner than they did at the beginning of the 21st century.
Huge financial potential
Such transfers also bring with them huge potential in terms of generating revenue. Pogba's superstar status is bound to generate large amounts of money for the club, especially given the fact the Red Devils are also reported to have purchased the French midfielder's image rights. According to reports in the UK, Manchester United expect Pogba to generate a hefty 40 million pounds (47 million euros, $52 million) a year for the club, figure that would cover the player's transfer fee in less than three years.
And then there's the prospect of a future transfer fee. While Pogba is already one of the world's top midfield players, he is only 23, which probably means he will develop his game even further in the years to come.
If that turns out to be the case, the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona can be expected to start their traditional and rather unsubtle pursuit. This is not a new experience for Manchester United, after the club sold Cristiano Ronaldo for a then-record of 94 million euros to Real back in 2009. If the Spanish giants come calling for Pogba at some point, a fee of at least 50 percent more than the one they're about to pay may not be all that far-fetched.
While the reported sum of money invested in Pogba is unhead of, the bigger picture suggests that the deal actually makes sense for Manchester United in financial terms. Now there's just the small matter of the French midfielder justifying it on the pitch.