The last time an English club broke the world transfer record, it was all so straightforward.
There was a big stage erected at St James’ Park and Alan Shearer walked onto it, dressed in the shirt Newcastle United had paid £15m for him to wear, and the ’sheet-metal worker’s son from Newcastle,‘ flanked by two inflatable bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale, waved his outstretched arms to the audience of supporters who had filled the car park to welcome their new number nine home.
Twenty years and one day after Shearer become football’s most expensive signing, having rejected Manchester United to leave Blackburn Rovers for Newcastle, Paul Pogba completed his £89m transfer back to Old Trafford – he left for £800,000 back in the summer of 2012 – following a day of sponsor-pleasing which was perhaps second only to the logo frenzy of Formula One.
Adidas had already begun to issue clever branding to associate their client with his imminent move to United from Juventus, but the product placement moved up a notch with the 23-year-old being ferried to his medical at Carrington – now known as the Aon Training Centre – in a red and black Chevrolet Camaro – the recently-released sports car produced by United’s shirt sponsors.
Pogba was then snapped wearing United’s red home shirt and their blue change strip. Expect images of the Frenchman in the new white kit to follow shortly.
And the timing of United’s announcement of the transfer’s completion, at 00:39 British Summer Time, was also a masterstroke of coincidence, considering it would have been morning rush hour in Beijing and Tokyo and early evening in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City.
United insist that the timing was purely down to their determination to announce the deal as soon as it was done, in order to avoid Juventus going public first – notwithstanding that it was almost 1:40am in Turin when Pogba officially became a United player.
But the old days of a new signing being wheeled out at an introductory press conference, with club scarf and ball being supplied by the photographer for the ‘I’ve arrived’ shot, are no certainty anymore.
United have yet to decide whether Pogba will be ‘unveiled’ at a press conference this week, with Jose Mourinho having the final say, but if the manager rules it out, there will be no sense of grievance at Old Trafford considering that Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have already helped them tell the world about their exciting new signing.
It is all about social media nowadays and United, in some respects, are following the lead set by Manchester City back in 2009, when their ‘Welcome to Manchester’ poster following Carlos Tevez’s defection from red to blue rewrote the rule book.
City, who unveiled Pep Guardiola at a Sunday afternoon fans’ festival earlier this summer, have long since abandoned the traditional introductory press conference when it comes to announcing new signings and United may yet follow suit with Pogba.
The club has seen how interest spikes on social media when new players arrive and the numbers generated by Pogba’s signing will be digested and ultimately used to draw in potential new sponsors, who will see how their brands can piggy-back on United’s global pull.
Chevrolet no longer produce or sell cars in the UK or Europe, so there was only one reason for Pogba to be driven into the Aon Training Centre in a Chevrolet Camaro.
China and the United States will have been watching just as closely as United’s traditional fan base in Manchester and that is where Chevrolet want to promote their cars.
Mourinho may have signed the midfielder he believes can drive United to glory, but it is now about so much more than what happens on the pitch.
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