In the summer of 2016, Manchester United raised eyebrows by breaking the world record transfer fee to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford from Juventus.
The €105 million fee was astronomical but in a year’s time, Paris Saint-Germain came along and absolutely obliterated it.
The €220 million spent to wrangle Neymar away from Barcelona’s grasp dwarfed the previous record sum, more than doubling Pogba’s fee.
The Brazilian was always expected to one day establish himself as the best player in the world and his move from Santos to Barcelona in 2013 was meant to set him along that path.
While playing alongside Lionel Messi certainly helped him elevate his game to a new level, at some point, he became aware of the fact that the Argentine maestro was not slowing down and his presence began to overshadow his performances rather than facilitate his development.
Perhaps the turning point was Barcelona’s incredible comeback in the Champions League against PSG back in March, 2017. Neymar’s phenomenal performance helped the Catalans win 6-1 and overturn a 4-0 defeat in the first leg of the round of 16 tie.
He was incredible against the Parisians all night, leading Barcelona’s fightback, particularly in the dramatic closing stages when he scored twice and set up Sergi Roberto for hair-raising winner.
However, the iconic image that emerged in the aftermath, particularly from the club’s official social media channels as well, was that of Messi celebrating passionately with Barcelona fans. It was evident that the Argentine would always be the darling of the Nou Camp and attract the majority of the plaudits.
That played a big role in Neymar’s decision to move to PSG, to be the main man, win the Champions League and be rewarded with a Ballon d’Or of his own. For the French outfit, he raises their game on the pitch and their profile off it.
Octo Finissimo Automatic A Third World Record for Bulgari
Bulgari is once again the spotlight, proudly presenting its third successive world record.
The Octo Finissimo Automatic is the slimmest ultra-thin self-winding watch on the market to date.
After introducing its Tourbillon in 2014 and the Minute Repeater in 2016, the Maison unveils its new creation featuring a total thickness of just 5.15mm, while its self-winding movement is just 2.23mm thick for a 40mm diameter.
The iconic Octo is once again pushing the boundaries of watchmaking feasibility.
Antonio Valencia and Lingard pounced on defensive mistakes by Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi as Jose Mourinho‘s visitors took a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal refused to buckle. Alexandre Lacazette netted when United’s defence stood still, but De Gea made a string of fine saves to deny the Gunners.
Lingard struck on the counter-attack following fine work from Pogba, who was then shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Hector Bellerin.
The midfielder’s offence carries an automatic three-match ban and rules Pogba out of next weekend’s Manchester derby.
The win saw second-placed United move five points behind rivals City, the Premier League leaders playing West Ham on Sunday, while Arsenal are seven points further adrift in fifth.
Here, we examine four things learned from the Emirates.
POGBA BAN DENTS TITLE CHANCES
A truly Jekyll and Hyde performance from Paul Pogba.
First, the good. When the Frenchman plays there is an instant verve and pace to United’s play.
His touches are quick and crisp, his passing likewise and the assist for Lingard’s second was a microcosm of the positive play he brings to United.
When put through on the angle, others would have shot and likely missed. Pogba, though, darted to the byline and then despite contact, maintained balance before poking a perfect pass for Lingard to tap home.
His importance to United is unquestionable. The rhythm of their play is dictated by the 24-year-old and that’s why his sending off triggered reverberations among the Old Trafford faithful ahead of next week’s Manchester derby.
Yes, they were a man down but United’s repression from attack to an ultra defensive approach when he left the field was indicative of how crucial he is.
Without him against City, a game which Mourinho’s men simply have to win to stay in touch at the top, their chances are diminished.
Corners of social media mocked his dismissal after he talked of a hope City suffer injuries to key players to give United an avenue back into the title race. But for United it takes just the loss of one man to hand the initiative to their city rivals.
DE GEA’S THE WORLD’S BEST KEEPER
There’s growing support for Barcelona stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s claim to the throne as the world’s best goalkeeper but David De Gea showed again he won’t abdicate that title in the near future.
Ter Stegen has cut out the mistakes from early on in his Camp Nou career and has been virtually unbeatable this season.
A pillar of strength, his interventions at key times are one of the reasons why the Catalan giants sit top of La Liga.
But De Gea is simply otherworldly right now. In light of his display against Arsenal, it’s easy to jump to a hot take but his heroics at the Emirates Stadium was just an amplification of the qualities he’s shown all season.
If you read back through a text live commentary of United’s win, every update would read “De Gea saves”. He was 10/10, if a striker gets that rating for a hat-trick, then De Gea went beyond that.
The Spaniard made 14 stops against Arsenal – the joint-most by a keeper in the Premier League era.
And it was the complexity, dexterity and flexibility of the vast majority of those saves which impressed most.
He achieved quality and quantity to secure the three points, an absurd double save in the second half a testament to his title as the world’s best goalkeeper.
ARSENAL VICTIMS OF THEIR OWN DOWNFALL
Whether it was at the back, or up front, the Gunners shot themselves in the foot.
The game looked beyond the hosts inside the first 15 minutes after two dreadful defensive errors under the pressure of United’s high press.
Laurent Koscielny gifted United their opener when his awful pass was easily intercepted by Antonio Valencia. His pass inside to Pogba then saw four Arsenal players descend on the Frenchman with Valencia free on the right to take a touch and drill through Petr Cech’s legs.
And it got worse. Mustafi was robbed of possession trying to play the ball out from the back and credit to United, the path to goal was slick and surgical but it was still preventable.
When Arsenal finally fought their way back into the game, they then paid for their profligacy.
They had the chances to win this game by a margin and while De Gea was tremendous, the lack of conviction at times was infuriating.
Back to front, it just didn’t happen for Arsenal.
CROSSING THEIR HEARTS
Arsenal attempted 26 crosses against United which pointed to a lack of ideas, especially when the visitors went down to 10 men.
The vast majority of those were lazily hung in the air and the problem is they were employing the tactic against one of the strongest and tallest sides in the Premier League.
At one point, they had five international strikers on the pitch and yet the service to them was dire.
Pushing Iwobi out wide was the killer because Arsenal had no width and it led to the early meaningless crosses.
Shockwaves were sent throughout the Arabian Gulf League late on Saturday night as era-defining Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club coach Cosmin Olaroiu departed by mutual consent after a sorry series of draws, ex-UAE boss Mahdi Ali being named as his replacement.
Olaroiu, 48, reached the end of the road in the wake of a seventh-successive stalemate in all competitions being recorded on Friday at home to lowly Al Dhafra in the top flight.
This continued the teething problems at the merged outfit, from which the Romanian previously led – the now defunct – Al Ahli to historic defeat in the 2015 AFC Champions League final and swept up seven trophies after being controversially poached from Al Ain in 2013.
Ex-Ahli midfielder and coach Ali, 52, returns to work after he quit the Whites in March after five transformational years.