The Pogmentary raises a few questions. Firstly, who signed off on ‘Pogmentary’? ‘The Pogumentary’ is just as cringeworthy but it surely works better than the Amazon alternative.
Secondly, is Paul Pogba the footballer most detached from reality?
It’s a crowded field, but the lines that have come out of preview screenings of the Frenchman’s fly-on-the-wall production certainly make him stand out. That is something Pogba has sought to do throughout his career, increasingly so for the wrong reasons, but the former Manchester United midfielder appears to be of the view that any publicity is good publicity.
Admittedly, this piece is being bitterly bashed out without having seen any of The Pogmentary beyond the trailers and the words written by those who have been subjected to it, but anyone who has watched Pogba for the last decade since his senior debut for United already knew what was coming when the series was announced over a year ago.
Since then, Pogba and his producers – pogucers? – have crafted a piece of work to show the player’s perspective on a truly miserable season for United and, for the midfielder, another wasted year. From what we know of Pogba, he would probably dispute that verdict on his final term at United, which was always going to provide the setting for this programme (Pogramme? No, you f*** off). Even the most creative writers would be hard pushed to wring five episodes from a contract renewal, which indicates that Pogba never had any intention of signing one. Mino Raiola and Pogba have spent the last five years doing their utmost to get the 29-year-old away from Old Trafford; the release of this series was only ever going to coincide with a transfer.
Still, Pogba seemed to feel the need to ham it up for cameras. The scene most seized upon by those granted an early screening is set in Miami, where Pogba is driving a Rolls Royce. “Did Manchester make a second offer?” he asks Raiola. “Yes, they absolutely want you to stay,” comes the reply. “For me, the offer doesn’t reflect that. I told them: ‘If you want him to stay, don’t make that offer’.”
“How can you tell a player you absolutely want him and offer him nothing? Never seen that.”
The Millennials among us who read about Ashley Cole nearly crashing his Bentley over Arsenal ‘taking the p*ss’ have seen this before, so it’s hardly a fresh storyline. But the Pogmentary is aimed very precisely at a more Gen Z audience. You could say the the same of Pogba himself. If many of us don’t get him it’s probably because we’re not supposed to.
Still, even accounting for generational differences, it’s hard to stomach his reaction to being refused a major increase on his reported £290,000-a-week salary – a pay-rise no one outside Pogba’s head could justify.
It’s not all his fault. Pogba is just a creature of his environment and United are at least partly to blame. The finger has been pointed at the club for not getting the best out of their record signing, despite managers contorting themselves to appease him while playing him in every possible midfield position in increasingly-desperate attempts to tease some consistency from him. Never did it pay off for either Jose Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Mourinho snapped and it cost him his job. Solskjaer pacified Pogba and that did him no favours either.
But the club indulged their record signing far and above the level his return merited. Even earlier this month when it came to confirming that Pogba would be off, United issued a gushing farewell, the kind usually reserved for departing heroes. They were presumably playing to Pogba’s considerable audience in one final attempt to squeeze some engagement out of their most marketable face. But the match-goers had it right when he was jeered off after his final home game, and again three days later when he sloped off inside 10 minutes at Anfield.
The only surprise is that it has taken over a fortnight from the half-arsed platitudes for Pogba to turn on the club that still pays his wages for another couple of weeks.
“My thought process is to show Manchester (United) that they made a mistake in waiting to give me a contract. And to show other clubs that Manchester had made a mistake in not offering me a contract.”
The pursuit of revenge makes for a juicy storyline for the second season of The Pogmentary which, in the absence of a major plot twist, will be set in Turin. We’ll know for certain during season one when, at some point, the Old Lady will be screened holding Pogba’s rose, like a Shopping Channel Bachelorette, with Real Madrid long since having walked off set to pursue serious footballers.
Juventus ought to be wary, just as United should have been. The minute Pogba went to Solskjaer and the hierarchy to get permission for his crew to follow him around last season should have been the time when the club pulled whatever contract offer was still on the table and sold him while they still could for whatever price they might have fetched. Instead, they bent over for Pogba and allowed the camera to capture them having their pogpants pulled down in ultra HD.
None of this means that Pogba won’t gain the vengeance he and his storywriters are seeking to manufacture. Every shot on target, every pass that finds a black and white shirt, will all be endlessly reeled and shared as if to show United what they could have won. That narrative will be especially prominent as United ease into the Erik ten Hag era, more so while the Red Devils’ rebuild endures the inevitable snagging problems. Assuming they ever get around to laying some foundations.
Perhaps Pogba is playing a character for the cameras and, really, he’s not as separated from reality as the Pogmentary previews lead us to believe. But the last six years prove he’s well cast for the role. Pogba has spent his career at United pretending – pretending to sprint, pretending to press, pretending to care. Ten Hag needs character of a different kind in the Old Trafford dressing room and the fact he won’t play even a bit-part in Pogba’s production should go some way to the long-running United tragicomedy finally being canned.