If you watched the snorefest on Sunday, ostensibly billed as Manchester United vs Liverpool, English football's most noble of derbies, you couldn't have missed it. It was on every single digital billboard around the field.
#Pogba #Pogba #Pogba #Pogba #Pogba #Pogba #Pogba. #Pogba. #Pogba. #Pogba.
I checked on Twitter. Yep, there's a #Pogba hashtag - andan emoji! Ye gods.
#pogba on every advertising board in the stadium and he played like an absolute donkey— Gav Foster (@Gav_Foster) January 15, 2017
Yes, the name of one footballer was being flashed across the world's most famous stadium and into the homes of millions of viewers around the world. I can't say this for a fact, but I do not recall a time when a single player's name has been puffed up over and above the collective, or the game, in such a way. Not when David Beckham joined Real Madrid. Not when Ó Seleção mourned Neymar's apparent death before they were brutally axe-murdered by the Germans in front of the screaming Brazilian fans at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. All thanks to the marketing department.
But there we were, #Pogba burned into our retinas. It was awful. It was embarrassing, if such a concept still means anything in football anymore. I cannot imagine that Sir Alex Ferguson would have allowed this when he stalked the technical area. And I don't think Paul Pogba enjoyed it much either, in the end.
If you don't watch football, you may have no idea who #Pogba is. On paper, he is the world's most expensive footballer, sold to Manchester United last year for a crisp £89 million (R1.464 billion). On the training ground, he's a tall, dark French midfielder with a good shot and header, who loves ridiculous haircuts, and does a reasonable impression of a panicked giraffe when sprinting at full tilt, which is to say, he looks a bit awkward, but does a good job playing football.
But on social media, he's something else. He's an event. A dancer, a dabber, a dzaddy. In other words: #POGBA!
— Voetbal Inside (@VoetbalInside) October 11, 2016
If he did nothing but dab and dance, that would be that. He'd be buried at item number five in a listicle about social media successes in 2016. But he's paid to be good at football, and considering he's the most expensive footballer out there, there's a reasonable expectation that his football game should be as strong as his social media game. Well...
Take the match against Liverpool. In an age when an 80 percent pass rate by a top-rate midfielder is considered a disaster, he only completed 71 percent of his passes, and failed to set up a single scoring opportunity. He also gave away the penalty that gave Liverpool the lead in the game. Since joining from Juventus, he's played 28 times, and only scored six goals. Or if you like, £14.8 million per goal. (The match was eventually salvaged for United by their real star footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.)
You don't have to be a sneering rival fan to see that the marketing department is not helping the player's cause here. Paul Pogba is a decent player. #POGBA is a disaster.
Even Pogba the player is starting to be worried about #Pogba. In an interview with a French sport outlet, published just before the derby, he tried to calm things, saying, "My role as a midfielder is not to score. I can make a difference in games, but I have a lot of work. Defensive work, dictate play. It's also a question of my abilities. I can also make the difference in winning back possession, in the team's play."
For pity's sake mate, cut it out with the #Pogba. And tell your pals at Man United marketing too. It's killing your football.