The controversy surrounding Manchester United’s signing of 16-year-old French prospect Paul Pogba has been cleared up. FIFA have ruled that Manchester United did not contravene any FIFA regulations in their recruitment of the young midfielder – specifically Article 19, which focuses on the protection of minors. United had been accused by French club Le Havre (HAC) of offering financial incentives to Pogba and his family to break a verbal agreement to stay at HAC until 2011. The accusation was launched in August but Le Havre pushed forth a formal complaint in September, hot on the heels of Chelsea’s transfer ban for inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract with Lens in 2007.
A statement released on manutd.com said: “Manchester United is pleased to confirm that the Football Association has been authorised by Fifa to register Paul Pogba as a Manchester United player with immediate effect.”
Reaction to the decision by the world press is mixed. Le Figaro, a leading French newspaper, writes that United exploited loopholes and repeats rumours that inducements of cash and a home for Pogba’s family were used to lure him to England. Le Havre have an outstanding reputation in developing young players, nurturing players like Real Madrid’s Lassana Diarra and Wigan’s Charles N’Zogbia as well as Atletico Madrid’s Florent Sinama-Pongolle, who moved from the French club to Liverpool, before going to Spain.
This was not the first time United had their recruitment policies called into question. Italian club Lazio were unhappy over United’s pursuit and signing of Federico Macheda, who was 16 when he moved to Old Trafford in 2007. There are many who believe that academy players should be protected from the advances of overseas clubs until they are 18. Others will say that players who join big clubs receive a footballing education superior to the one they would get at a smaller club.
Le Havre have the right to appeal FIFA’s decision so we might not have heard the last of this case.