It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Predicting Summer Destination for Mbappe, Haaland, and Pogba
We're headed for one of the most memorable summers in recent transfer window history. Ahead of a December World Cup, three of the biggest stars in the world are potentially on the move, two of which could take the place of Messi vs. Ronaldo for the next decade. And I'm here to predict where they end up.
If you would rather listen to our opinions on this topic, here's a podcast episode where we discuss this exact topic!
With that said, here we go:
We'll start with the least exciting of the three. It seems set that Paul Pogba will be leaving Manchester United at the end of his contract this summer, and rightfully so. Pogba's time in England has been marked more about criticism for everything he does, ranging from his haircuts to his play on the field. Whether you think it's just or not is up to you, but I'll leave this here. Since joining the club in 2016, no Manchester United has assisted more goals than Pogba, and only four players have more goals. Goals and assists are the last things you should judge a midfielder's play on, but that shows you how underrated and abused he has been by British media and some Manchester United fans.
As far as his options this summer, he's lobbed out rumors that he would be willing to stay in the premier league, but I think that's a smokescreen. Realistically it's either PSG or Real Madrid. My heart is saying PSG, but my head is saying Real Madrid. I think Pogba wants to complete the infinity stones of playing for the most popular team in each of the Big 4 leagues. He's done Juventus, then Manchester United, so Real Madrid must be next. It would add to his brand as a global superstar to head Florentino Perez's third remix of the Galacticos.
My heart says PSG because Zidane might take over the PSG job, and Pogba is the best midfielder France has had since Zidane retired. Add that joining PSG would mean Pogba goes back home to Paris in a country and for a media base that adores him. Teaming up with Verratti, Messi, Neymar, Marquinhos and co. would also offer a great opportunity at the club's first-ever champions league trophy.
Probable Final Destination: Real Madrid
Hopeful Final Destination: PSG
Haaland, at 21, has already proved he's one of the best strikers in soccer. He's scored 64 goals in 61 games over the last two seasons and will only add to that if he can get past his recent injury issues. But Haaland is stuck between a rock and a hard place. As I mentioned in my winners and losers of the transfer window, Haaland is an unfortunate loser in that it's not his fault. This summer was supposed to be the Haaland sweepstake, but now it looks like Manchester City is satisfied with Julian Alvarez coming in the summer; Real Madrid might be opting for Kylian Mbappe, and Liverpool signed Luis Diaz. And while Real Madrid may dream of pairing Haaland with Mbappe, Haaland strikes me as the kind of guy who wants to prove he's the best in the world, which makes Kylian Mbappe his natural rival for the next decade so he won't sign for the same team. That leaves Manchester United and Barcelona, two clubs at the worst they have been in over a decade.
Of those two, Barcelona is by far the most realistic. Sure they signed Aubameyang, but he turns 33 this summer, so Haaland matches the potential of their youthful roster much more. And more importantly, his transfer release clause of 75 million means Barcelona may be able to afford him despite their financial crisis. The other alternative is Manchester United, but they are in absolute shambles and have Cristiano Ronaldo under contract for another season.
But my personal favorite and dark horse in this race is Liverpool. Erling Haaland in Klopp's Liverpool system would be an absolute cheat code. A front three of Mane-Haaland-Salah is one I want to see purely as a fan of the beautiful game and for the sake of seeing Liverpool challenge Manchester City for years to come. Unfortunately, the only reason this one isn't realistic is the unofficial wage-cap at the club. The club is notoriously cheap, evident by the fact that they're entrenched in a contract negotiation battle with Mo Salah, a player virtually every other club would offer the world to if he asked. Haaland's agent is Mino Raiola, and if you know what that means, you'll know that his salary demands aren't the type Liverpool will pick up.
Probable Final Destination: Barcelona
Hopeful Final Destination: Liverpool
The star of this window. Mbappe is 23 and about to enter his prime and can leave for free. There isn't a single club in the world that doesn't want him. I still hold out hope as an Arsenal fan that he'll fulfill his calling as a modern Thierry Henry regen and come to the club, but I know that won't happen. Realistically there is only one club a player of this caliber will go to; that club is Real Madrid.
If Mbappe goes to Real Madrid and Haaland to Barcelona, they could take El Classico to heights they haven't reached since Ronaldo left for Juventus. Doing it at Real Madrid also gives Mbappe his best chance at a Ballon d'Or, which is arguably the only thing a resume that includes winning a world cup trophy as a teenager, needs. If Real Madrid brings in Mbappe and Pogba this summer, we would have to declare it the start of the third generation of Galacticos; something Mbappe may consider most fitting considering his personal hero, Cristiano Ronaldo, headed the second generation of Galacticos around the same age.
But ultimately, my wishful destination for Mbappe is that he stay at PSG. If he can be the man that leads PSG to their first-ever champions league trophy, that is a greater legacy play than doing so at Real Madrid. It'll mean more for a Parisian to lead Paris's mega-club to their first-ever UCL trophy than to go lead Real Madrid to their 14th. Plus, he'd be leaving for a club in a worse position. He single-handedly dominated Real Madrid and their aging roster over the first leg of the knockout stages. Joining that club while they're on the downturn would be a tough decision, especially if he could stay at PSG and develop his relationship with Messi and Neymar.
Probable Final Destination: Real Madrid
Hopeful Final Destination: PSG
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