While Paul Pogba does his best to make himself persona non grata at Manchester United, Florentino Pérez has been making eyes at Donny van de Beek, one of the young stars who helped propel Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals and a domestic double last season. That Ajax side is now being cherry-picked and although Van de Beek is an excellent footballer, he is completely different to Pogba. Wondering which one to buy is akin to choosing between a bicycle and a sofa, neither of which have much in common with the other. Pogba is a kind of flying fortress, who plays from box to box, isn’t afraid to get stuck in, robs balls and scores goals, ghosting into the box with expertise. Maybe he isn’t the kind of player you’d go out of your way to watch in person, but you’d certainly want him in your side because he can be the deciding factor in winning games.
Van de Beek is a different element. He is, like Pogba, an attacking midfielder, or something similar. And attacking midfielders or something similar is what dilettante presidents like to fill their team with. When Arrigo Sacchi was in charge at AC Milan, Silvio Berlusconi always wanted attacking midfielders even though he already had Roberto Donadoni, who it was difficult to find an improvement on. But attacking midfielders always catch the eye of those who know little about football because of their vibrant and virtuoso playing style. Real Madrid already have a huge roll call of such players: Eden Hazard, Isco, James, Brahim, Rodrygo, Kubo and the now injured Marco Asensio, with Martin Odegaard perennially waiting in the wings. And now Van de Beek is being considered as an alternative to Pogba, which he quite patently isn’t.
Van de Beek a sticker Zidane does not need
Meanwhile, Pogba’s brother Mathias has signed for a Spanish team - third-tier Manchego - and he hopes to join him in central Spain by landing in Madrid. But what of Zinedine Zidane? The Real manager has set his bar high in this transfer window but still has the issue of Gareth Bale to resolve, with the Frenchman stating it would “be better if he left today rather than tomorrow.” And still Pogba remains out of reach. Zidane did Florentino a huge favour by stepping in to save the president’s head during a critical period of his stewardship, but that is in the past. If he manages to deliver Pogba and allows Zidane to build the squad he desires then we will know that he recognizes his coach’s contribution, but I have my doubts. Van de Beek is a cheaper alternative and looks good on paper, but he would be just another sticker in a section of Zidane’s album that is already full.