August 9 – World football’s record transfer fee has been smashed again after Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United finally went through when the French international midfielder signed a five-year contract with the option to extend for a further year.
United have reportedly splashed out £89m to take the 23-year-old from Juventus, just eclipsing the £85m fee Real Madrid paid for Welshman Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
“I am delighted to rejoin United. It has always been a club with a special place in my heart and I am really looking forward to working with (manager) Jose Mourinho,” Pogba said in a statement on United’s official website.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Juventus and have some fantastic memories of a great club with players that I count as friends. But I feel the time is right to go back to Old Trafford. I always enjoyed playing in front of the fans and can’t wait to make my contribution to the team. This is the right club for me to achieve everything I hope to in the game.”
Pogba is the latest of Mourinho’s stellar signings following defender Eric Bailly, midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan and most notably striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he establishes his own squad after taking over from Louis van Gaal.
Mourinho now has the squad he wants and there will be no excuses – though he will doubtless make a few – if United fail to achieve success with so many big names at the manager’s disposal .
“Paul is one of the best players in the world and will be a key part of the United team I want to build here for the future,” said Mourinho. “He is quick, strong, scores goals and reads the game better than many players much older than he is. He has the chance to be at the heart of this club for the next decade and beyond.”
United will hope Pogba’s power and passing skills will allow them to play a more expansive game than under Van Gaal. He won four Serie A titles at Juventus but does not always impress, France’s defeat in the final of Euro 2016 being a case in point.
In his earlier spell for United as a teenager he made just seven first-team appearances, all off the bench, after signing for £1.5 from Le Havre in 2012 but will be under pressure to deliver an instant return on United’s investment, the first time in 20 years than an English club has smashed the transfer record.
Anything Mourinho can do to win the title, his old rival Pep Guardiola is trying to match at Manchester City who promptly announced they have signed John Stones from Everton for £47.5m, making him the world’s second most expensive defender after David Luiz
The 22-year-old England international has signed a six-year deal and is Guardiola’s eighth signing.
“It’s an ambitious club with a great manager so I can’t wait to get stuck in,” Stones said. “I know it will be tough getting a place in this team but I’m determined to become the best player I can be and help us to success.”
City’s weakness has been the heart of their defense and Guardiola will expect Stones to rectify that. In a statement City described Stones as “one of the world’s most promising centre-backs”, with a reputation as a “ball-playing, 21st-century defender” who is best at “neutralising opposition attacks” and “launching the first key pass out of the defensive third”.
Guardiola said: “We want to help John show his quality with us and improve on what he has already achieved. I like the way he plays the game and I’m looking forward to welcoming him into the squad.”
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