The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

#PogStop

From fancy haircuts to relentless dabbing, is the image and popularity of Paul Pogba affecting his game?

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Paul Pogba seems to care more about his image rather than the way he performs on the pitch. He signed for Manchester United in the summer for a world record fee of £89 million. Since his arrival, although producing some good moments, has performed below par. Some people think this is due to his off field antics.

He frequently treats us to his rehearsed dance routines through social media, which is embarrassing to say the least. Also, he broadcasts a variety of eccentric haircuts that look slightly odd. It can be said that he’s just trying to have a bit of fun, but what is this achieving?

Some of the people we spoke to this week claim that he’s put too much effort into boosting his franchise. Yes, Pogba is well-known for the dabbing and dancing, but it would be better if he went down in history as a fantastic footballer, not a showman.

However, being in the limelight and having the pressure of the media on your back every day must play a part in all of this — it’s understandable that a popular footballer would want to embrace the fame.

Still, it’s evident that there’s perhaps a lack of discipline in the way he’s being managed. Rio Ferdinand blasted Pogba live on BT Sport this week by saying that he “hasn’t won anything yet” and dancing like this would “never have been allowed under Sir Alex Ferguson”.

There’s a strong argument that sponsors can be held accountable for affecting his image. In the summer of 2015, Adidas struck a £750m sponsorship deal with United, and since 2016, Adidas have made Pogba into a brand and appear to have evolved the trend of #Pogboom. They’ve done this through adverts, mostly of him performing weird dance moves which, to be honest, make him look like he’s got something wrong with him.

It could be said that Adidas have almost brainwashed Pogba into thinking that he’s God’s gift to the footballing world, when in reality, he hasn’t made his mark on the pitch enough to be considered influential at all. He’s done everything to broaden the fan base of his club, but has failed to play well consistently, which is surely the number one priority?

We spoke to Manchester City fan Emptyhad, who said that “some footballers act like they are in a circus”. He then added that it’s their obligation as professionals to “get the job done and bring success to the clubs they represent”.

After asking twenty random yet experienced fans who they thought was the best Premier League midfielder in the last 20 years, seventeen of them said Paul Scholes.

Scholes was the  perfect example of a player dictated football matches, won multiple trophies and received a phenomenal reputation from the footballing world; he wasn’t interested in haircuts or inane dance routines, he just wanted to play. Scholes is the fitting example to use because Pogba has all the attributes to reach this level, but favours theatricality over simplicity.

Admittedly, though, Pogba has helped in providing encouragement for young disadvantaged fans from the Manchester United Foundation, making him a popular figure amongst supporters. Footballers are role models, as a child you always wanted to emulate a Beckham free kick or a Ronaldinho step over — young fans today will instead copy Pogba’s clothing and his dancing, not the way he plays football.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the definition of hard work and dedication to the sport. Even though showing signs of arrogance, Ronaldo can back this up with stellar performances and frequently breaking records. Pogba on the other hand, cannot support his cockiness due to his inconsistency.

Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer to play the game, recently bleached his hair white. Even though it looks like polar bear fur, his image hasn’t affected how much of an outstanding footballer he is week in week out. Pogba bleached his hair and proceeded to get outplayed by Stoke City’s midfield.

There are a number of supporters who criticise his image, calling for the return of the way football used to be, a no-nonsense profession, with players who don’t care about style over substance. It’s obvious that Pogba’s image, in some way, has surpassed the importance of playing football to the best of his ability.

The sad reality is that he’s become a brand, although that’s an obvious statement — his image is very much a part of the player he is, but ultimately, the football should come first.