Football: Pogba jackpot for Manchester United

Paul Pogba celebrates a goal at a Uefa Champions League group stage football match between Manchester City and Juventus in Manchester, on Sept 15, 2015.
Paul Pogba celebrates a goal at a Uefa Champions League group stage football match between Manchester City and Juventus in Manchester, on Sept 15, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - The £89 million (S$155.5 million) world-record fee paid out by Manchester United for Paul Pogba could pay dividends for the English Premier League club as long as the French star lives up to his billing, experts say.

An increase in kit sales, an increase in the image rights of the player, and potentially an added value on a future transfer could see United ending up turning a profit from football's most expensive player, who smashed Gareth Bale's £85 million transfer to Real Madrid in 2013.

Experts at consultants Deloitte see the acquisition of Pogba as United's possible bid to emulate the "Galacticos" business model set by Real, the world's richest club with an annual revenue of €577 million euros (S$865.2 million) in 2015.

"That's what it really looks like," said economist Bastien Drut in comments to AFP.

He highlights the recruitment of "big personalities" such as new manager Jose Mourinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and especially Pogba, who is capable of "maximising revenues through his marketability" along the lines of such trademark names as Cristiano Ronaldo or James Rodriguez, transferred for respective goldmines and who have become unstoppable cash generators.

"Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer broke even after two or three years just from kit sales," according to Drut.

"Manchester United is a little bit like Real Madrid, it's a brand recognised throughout the world, so it is possible to imagine that profit can be made from Pogba's transfer in three or four years time."

But Pogba must deliver the goods on the field and live up to his huge potential, according to Drut.

Pogba is already a fan favourite: he is the eighth-highest jersey seller in the world - his Juventus kit sold 667,000 units in 2015 according to the Euromericas agency.

That is promising for United, despite the Frenchman being behind his two team-mates Ibrahimovic (seventh, 865,000 sales with PSG) and Wayne Rooney (sixth, 877,000 sales) and he is still very far from Lionel Messi whose shirt is the most sold worldwide (1.95 million).

In addition to kit sales, the marketing potential of the player known as "la Pioche" emerges as the other main income source for United.

With his unique hair style, his popularity with young fans and his millions of followers on social media (6.9 million on Instagram) the 23-year old is, just like David Beckham, a "marquee-player".

That expression defines a player who can bring "an added economic value" to his club, sports marketing specialist Lionel Maltese told AFP.

United's board members are counting on that. According to French newspaper L'Equipe, the player will earn €13 million a year, but will give 80 per cent of his image rights to the Red Devils, at an estimated value of €45 million a year.

"There is going to be a huge marketing push by Manchester United on Pogba," said Maltese.

In short, the club seeks to use Pogba's image rights to attract new sponsors, building revenue while at the same time snatching market share from sporting financial rivals such as Real and Barcelona who exploit Ronaldo and Messi as their banners.

Among marketing tools could be the partnership of United and kit provider Adidas who are also Pogba's sponsor. This partnership is already the world's most expensive (worth approximately €940 million, over 10 years) and could even increase with the arrival of the Frenchman.

"There are going to be projects implemented to mass sell Pogba and Manchester United spin-off products and reach even more clients," said Maltese.

Despite a record amount of money spent by the Red Devils and of the fruitful partnership to come, Pogba is not tied to the club for the rest of his career. If he fulfills his huge potential, United could even sell him on at a profit, said Drut.

"If we assume that the transfer fees continue to increase in the next few years, we can eventually anticipate that Manchester United could sell Pogba on for the same price or even a higher price" says Drut.

"His value can't be multiplied 10 or 20 times but it can grow by 5 or 10 per cent. The profit margin is there but it isn't very big," said Wladimir Andreff, an expert in football club economy.