Progress will prove Pogba's a bargain: Jose

LONDON • The continued development of Paul Pogba, the world's most expensive footballer, under Jose Mourinho has convinced the Manchester United manager that history will prove his club secured a "bargain" when they paid Juventus £89.3 million (S$157.2 million) for his services last summer.

Pogba played an impressive part in United's 3-0 Europa League win over Saint-Etienne last week.

And he will have a major role to play if Mourinho is to win one of the four trophies for which he is still competing.

"The scrutiny on him is hard, is difficult," said the Portuguese on Saturday. "But that's the price of being who he is and is also the price of his price.

"I am pretty sure that next summer some players with only half his quality probably will cost the same money or more, so I am waiting for that moment to release him from the scrutiny.

EVERY PENNY'S WORTH

I think in a couple of years you will realise he was cheap.

JOSE MOURINHO, Manchester United manager, on his £89.3 million capture from Juventus, Paul Pogba.

"I think in a couple of years you will realise he was cheap."

Pogba is 23 but close to the finished article, not just a prospect. Mourinho is convinced such players - Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann is another - will command huge fees in the near future.

"Not many clubs have this vision of anticipation of what can happen in the near future," the manager said. "A few years ago £25 million was a phenomenal player. Today, £25 million is not even a player, it is a prospect of a player."

Pogba's midweek display against the French side, featuring his brother Florent, included him striking the crossbar, the eighth time this season that the seven-goal midfielder has been denied by woodwork.

"He gave us an incredible balance," said Mourinho. "Recovering the ball, and starting the building up from the back. It was really impressive and at the top of the pitch he is a guy that can score goals. Imagine the eight posts (being converted chances) and it would be an amazing record... He's still very, very young, and he can be fantastic."

The Saint-Etienne victory featured a hat-trick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who continued his phenomenal season by taking his goals tally to 23.

Team-mate Chris Smalling hopes that United move quickly to activate the one-year extension option on the forward's contract.

"Age doesn't seem to be a factor with him whatsoever," he said of the 35-year-old. "I think he is the best in the business at what he does... We're lucky that we don't have to play against him in a game, just in training."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Progress will prove Pogba's a bargain: Jose'. Print Edition | Subscribe