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Community Shield is no predictor of league success, Pogba's cost, more

The Community Shield occupies a strange berth in English football. When it's convenient, we pretend it's a trophy and a competitive match. When it's not, we call it a glorified friendly.

I lean towards the latter. Competitive games don't feature 12 substitutions (six per team). Nor do they involve one manager -- Claudio Ranieri, in this case -- leaving out all his summer signings because he wanted to reward the guys who won him the title last season.

All of this led to a pretty disjointed (but occasionally entertaining) affair that likely tells you little about how these two clubs will play this season. But if we're only marginally wiser about what Leicester City and Manchester United will look like as teams, we do have clues about individuals.

Start with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It will take a little time for him to find the measure of his United teammates and for Jose Mourinho to get the best out of him. But even the Ibrahimovic we saw yesterday, who often did not get great service and was stuck between two guys his own size, can be deadly at half-throttle. His winner was vintage Zlatan, finding the half-space away from his marker and powering the ball into the far corner. And while he missed an earlier opportunity with a tame and likely mistimed finish, the fact that he was in the right place to shoot is significant. For the first time in a while, United have a center-forward whose natural habitat is the penalty area.

Wayne Rooney ran plenty but produced less than expected, and that's a conundrum Mourinho will need to solve. The Michael Carrick-Marouane Fellaini partnership in front of the back four doesn't seem sustainable (not least because you can't expect Carrick to play every game) and is painfully slow. (If only United were on the verge of signing a dynamic superstar to help out in that role...) You'd expect that when we see the "real" United Mourinho has drawn up in his head, there will be room for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and, when he's fit again, Chris Smalling.

Luke Shaw's return to full fitness reminds you just how much United missed him when he was injured. Eric Bailly is a work-in-progress, but hugely promising and ready to play. And Jesse Lingard is greater than the sum of his parts. Most of all, though, there is a lot of truth in Mourinho's words when he said he's only had a month to change from Louis Van Gaal's philosophy to his own way of playing. It's not that Van Gaal's approach was wrong; it's just that it was different. It's not quite like getting an aircraft carrier to do a U-turn, but it's not far off.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal showed what he'll bring to Man United even though the Community Shield didn't reveal much.

For Leicester, the way Lingard rumbled through the middle of the park in the buildup to his goal reminded you that N'Golo Kante is no longer there. And that in a real game, he'd be stopped by fair means or foul. Jamie Vardy looked to have picked up where he left off last year, and of the newcomers who are likely to see much playing time for the Foxes, you'd imagine Ahmed Musa might settle quicker than Nampalys Mendy, who seems more of a playmaker type than a Kante-style Energizer Bunny.

Ranieri said that Leicester are at 60 percent right now. United probably are too. It makes far more sense to check in on these sides in a few weeks, when they'll be closer to the real deal.

How much will Paul Pogba actually cost?

You will see a whole range of different numbers relating to how much Paul Pogba will cost Manchester United once he signs. Some will be as low as £89 million (€105m/$116m). Others will be as high as £123m (€145m/$160.7m).

What gives? Why can't we get a firm number?

If you're into this sort of thing, read on. If you're not, skip to the next item.

The FIFA TMS system does contain a hard-and-fast number, which is on the contract to transfer Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United. It includes both the money that shifts from one club to the other and the commissions paid to agents (Pogba's agent, Mino Raiola, is the most notable, but he's not the only one involved) as part of the deal.

For a player to be transferred, both clubs have to upload their versions of the contracts plus the transfer fee, agent commissions and other fees into the FIFA TMS system. Those numbers have to match, otherwise the deal does not go through.

The problem is simple: nobody, apart from a handful of people associated with Juve and United, plus Raiola and maybe a couple agents and the good folks at FIFA TMS, has actually seen the number. Throw in clubs' penchant for making themselves look clever or thrifty by giving you only part of the picture, and it becomes tough to truly compare apples with apples.

The most widely quoted figure -- and my own reporting makes me pretty confident it's accurate, albeit incomplete -- is that Juventus will receive £93.3m (€110m/$121.9m) from United. However, that figure is a gross and part of that amount, £4.25m (€5m/$5.5m), will go to pay various associated fees and commissions, including part of those owed to Raiola. So Juventus would end up banking around £89m, which may explain where that number came from.

(The good news here is that Juventus is a publicly traded company. At some point, they'll publish their accounts and the financial eggheads will tell us whether they did in fact receive €110m from United, just experts have been able to verify similar large transfer amounts in the past.)

The media have been publishing wildly different reports of what Paul Pogba's fee will be, but whatever the cost, it'll be worth it for Man United.

Of course, that number doesn't include commission or fees that the club paid on its end. And if you're a United fan or a Glazer, you might want to know how much the deal actually cost all-in, since you've probably heard all the rumors about Raiola somehow demanding 20 percent of the transfer fee.

Now, I personally doubt that even Raiola could get away with demanding such a massive cut. And, contrary to what you might have read, he never had a legally binding entitlement to 20 percent of the transfer fee. Not only have multiple sources denied its existence, but it would be illegal under FIFA's statutes governing third-party investment. Of course, that doesn't mean that Raiola didn't ask for 20 percent of the deal, as he's entitled to do. Or that once Raiola's cut was agreed to (however much it was), part of the reason this move took so long is that Juventus and United had to agree who would pay which parts of his commission.

What we do know is that Raiola got some level of commission paid to him by both clubs and that the amount ought to be added to the cost of the deal.

I know what you're thinking: that number is in the transfer contract and has been uploaded to FIFA TMS, right?

The answer is ... maybe. Once the Pogba deal goes through, Raiola will have three important clients at United, the other two being Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Juventus are currently linked with another Raiola client, Blaise Matuidi. If there's more commission to be paid, there's nothing stopping them from spreading it over other deals for other players.

Bottom line? Mourinho was probably telling the truth when he said he "didn't know" how much this deal was costing Manchester United. Most people, even those involved in the deal, probably don't know. Very few people do.

What we can all be sure of, though, is that it's a world record. And what I am pretty sure of is that it was a good piece of business for the club.

Inter continue to make bad choices

Details are hazy for now, but it appears that Roberto Mancini's time as Inter manager is at an end, with Frank De Boer set to take over. We'll get into this more once we know more, but there are two obvious immediate reactions.

The first is that changing managers in August is simply grotesque. Inter were obviously preoccupied with the ownership transition as the Chinese group Suning acquired just over two-thirds of the club, but it doesn't mean they couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. Besides, Suning came in on June 6. They had two whole months to figure out what to do with Mancini and, clearly, they misread the situation entirely. In fact, they reportedly went so far as to offer him a contract extension.

The other is that everything filtering out from Inter suggests some folks still don't get it. This is a club operating under the restrictions of a settlement for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules. They spent big last year mortgaging the future, and this summer, Mancini's targets included Yaya Toure and Thomas Vermaelen. Because those are exactly the sort of cheap, huge-upside, long-term players you try to sign when you're working on a shoestring.

(Mancini's other target was apparently Marco Reus -- nothing wrong with him other than the fact that he'd cost an absolute fortune.)

This club needs a serious wake-up call, but right now, the fear is that we'll get another wasted season instead.

Emery era at PSG begins in style

If Saturday night was a sign of things to come in the post-Zlatan era, things bode rather well for Paris Saint-Germain. Without Edinson Cavani, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Blaise Matuidi, Marquinhos and Thiago Silva and with Marco Verratti still only half-fit, they demolished Lyon 4-1 on Saturday night in the French Super Cup.

In many ways, it makes the transition more straightforward for new boss Unai Emery. Taking over with Ibrahimovic still around would likely have been trickier. Hitting the ground running in this way, without so many veteran stars, only makes things easier.

Don't read into Guardiola's tinkering

Last season, owing to injuries elsewhere, Pep Guardiola turned Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba into a viable center-back partnership for Bayern, even though one was a rookie midfielder and the other was a left-back/occasional midfielder. That was in his third season with the Bavarians -- when the rest of the side had metabolized his concepts -- and even then it only lasted until Jerome Boateng's return to full fitness.

Guardiola may be daring and outside-the-box in his approach, but we probably shouldn't consider the Aleksandar Kolarov-Fernando center-back pairing, seen in Sunday's friendly against Arsenal, as a sign of things to come. Manchester City obviously have specialist center backs due to return and, you'd expect, they'll take another run at John Stones or a similar ball-playing central defender.

Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.


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