As hype men go, Stormzy isn’t a bad one. To mark the culmination of this summer’s most-hyped transfer, the east London rapper dropped a new video in which he wore a Manchester United shirt emblazoned with the name on everyone’s lips and fingertips: “Pogba”.

Stormzy was performing his 2015 freestyle “Nigo Duppy”, but the lyrics could almost have been written for the £89m world-record footballer with whom he was intercut: “I was the man of the year last year / Now I’m the man of the year for the second year straight / Like nobody don’t compare.” OK, so Lionel Messi won the Ballon d’Or for 2015. But Pogba was one of the few not on the books at Barcelona or Real Madrid to make the Fifpro World XI, and the youngest since Messi Himself in 2009. (He also stole the show with a dinner jacket in his trademark black and gold.)

Another line in the video - “Got my adidas creps with my Nigo top / You can’t get this yet, man are jokers” - took on added significance as Stormzy hit the club badge in time to the beat. Not because Nigo has been moonlighting for the Adi football department (although the Japanese streetwear legend does design an Originals range for the brand, for which Stormzy also made a film), but because the video was leaked via the rapper’s Facebook page a couple of days before the doneness of the deal was finally, officially announced. The vid was pulled, but not before setting the internet alight.

Stormzy wasn’t the only rapper waxing lyrical on social media. When Pogba’s £33.4m endorsement deal with adidas was announced earlier in the year, Bronx-born Pusha T welcomed him to the “squad” on Insta, while West Coast OG Snoop Dogg posted a video on Twitter. Sure, the trio’s hospitality could easily be attributed to their ambassadorial roles for the Three Stripes. But their enthusiasm comes across more sincere than sponsored: the Stormzy video followed a more low-key one filmed a couple of weeks earlier at adidas HQ in which Pogba (pretty successfully) mimicked the grime MC’s accent. There’s genuine affection on both sides.

Then there’s Drake. In June the maudlin Canadian chart-dominator Instagrammed himself wearing a pink Juventus 15/16 third jersey with Pogba on the back (plus matching fuchsia shades), which garnered 825,000 likes from Drizzy’s 27m followers - along, presumably with a fair few confused emojis from those inhabitants of the North American continent who are not au fait with European “soccer”. The 6God is a fickle one, having previously worn the colours of Barça and AC Milan. But again, this allegiance strikes as more authentic - not least because August Pogba went backstage at a Drake gig in New York to personally present the rapper with set-completing home and away shirts. Although Drake was probably less miffed than normal fans when the transfer to Man United went through just a couple of days later - he can afford a new shirt,  or get one for free. Either way, hip-hop is almost uniformly Team Pogba. What a time to be a United fan.

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The confluence between hip-hop and its favourite footballer is illustrated neatly by the work of Will Hutchins, who created T-shirts with “Life of Pogba” and “I feel like Pogba” in the graphic style of Kanye West’s merch for his latest album Life Of Pablo. Hutchins was variously inspired by the way pop stars (and fashion brands such as Vetements) appropriate logos for commercial purposes, the then-upcoming Euros being hosted in France and the fact that “Pogba”, you know, sounds a bit like “Pablo”. “Hip-hop was embracing football,” he says. “There was a trend of rappers wearing football shirts.”

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Whether it’s Juventus or Man United on the crest, a Pogba shirt is a badge of cool for rappers. “An artist such as Drake likes to be seen as understanding European subcultures - for example, using Skepta, Sampha and Jamie XX in his music before they were big in the US, and certainly not in the mainstream,” says Hutchins. “I think his very overt fandom of European football is part of this.” Pogba, with his prodigious skill, swagger and “dab” celebration - the dance move credited to Atlanta rap group Migos and imported into Europe via Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton - is the perfect expression: “He’s an obvious choice for a rapper to celebrate as a successful equal.” When they met at adidas HQ, Stormzy anointed himself and Pogba a “couple of young kings”, a line he repeated at the start of the video celebrating the latter’s transfer.

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Hip-hop’s veneration of Pogba can partly be explained by mutual appreciation. “I love American music, of course,” he told Complex. “Artists like Future, Drake, Fetty Wap, Young Thug, Travis Scott… US hip-hop is my thing. Not a lot of the other players like it but I put it on anyway. They’re too old, I’m trying to educate.” This throwaway comment is actually a key distinction. Pogba is different from his peers by his ability but also his sensibility: he’s a footballer who embraces hip-hop and America generally, a player in more way than one.

Where most footballers are holidaying in culturally bankrupt Dubai, Pogba’s attending Drake concerts in New York, or in Los Angeles. He’s stepping off private jets in Givenchy Rottweiler shirts and NBA jerseys, and hanging out with ballers like James Harden. He’s living “The Life Of Pogba”.

Even Pogba’s playing style is hip-hop: he struts around the park, exuding superiority with every touch. To borrow a line from Drake, whether it’s Turin or Manchester, Pogba seems to say, with every insouciant nutmeg: “How you let me run it down here? / I’m not even from around here.” Rappers love Pogba because he shares their values: it’s no coincidence that adidas announced they had signed “the boss of swagger” to their “squad”. The sportswear brand is only too aware that Pogba’s crossover potential extends a lot further than hitting 40-yard diags. “Paul is a cultural icon who inspires with his style of play and his style on the streets,” says Florian Alt, Senior Director of Communications for adidas Football. He has a personality and a joie de vie that we want to celebrate in all of our brand work. The Stormzy piece is a perfect example of this.”

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In fact, the rapper-announced world-record transfer heralded an even bigger shift. “Five years ago, Pogba would’ve gone to the Man United training ground, shaken hands with José Mourinho and held up up a shirt in front of a backboard covered in brand logos,” says Max Barnett, Global Director (Digital) of Nielsen Sports, which specialises in quantifying return on investment for sponsors. “Jump forward to 2016 and the Pogba transfer is announced through social media at 12.30am UK time. Why? Because adidas and Chevrolet sell products and cars in America and China. The other thing is that adidas owned the story, not Man United; the club, Pogba and Stormzy acted as distributors of the content.” And social was the primary channel for that content, where once MUTV might have had the exclusive: “It was a brand campaign rather than a transfer.”

We live in a virtual world where Cristiano Ronaldo has 100m Facebook fans: more than Real Madrid - or Man United. Social media is the true “player power”, and Pogba’s online presence has been factored into his price tag, according to Barnett. “Clubs are not only looking at players’ personal reach, but also their fans’ tolerance to commercial messaging,” says Barnett. “There’s no point in having 100m fans if, when a player posts something about Chevrolet, they say, ‘You sellout.’” And who is more tolerant to commercial messaging than hip-hop fans? Boasts about whips are expected, even part of the appeal. Through Snapchat et al, Pogba has a direct line to those millenials that marketers are so keen to reach - and, crucially, “resonance” (another marketing buzzword). You’re more likely to respond to a post by Drake or Pogba than a brand advert.

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Whatever his cost, or his worth on the pitch, Pogba was a signing that Man United arguably had to make: cementing their status among the game’s elite, which was in danger of being eroded, while placating supporters and sponsors not enamoured with sideways passing and Europa Cup. But Pogba doesn’t just bring much-needed midfield dynamism and a sprinkling of stardust to Old Trafford: he also possesses the kind of legit cool that Ronaldo and Messi, while they might be better players for now, and have more followers on social media, simply don’t possess - and never will.

Street cred is hard to quantify. But for all the haters who sneered at his Ballon d’Or rig, Pogba could yet become the most influential footballer in men’s fashion and the wider culture since that other spectacularly coiffed Man United alumnus, David Beckham. All these rappers don’t support United or Juventus particularly; they’re pan-geographic, cross-border Pogba fans. And where they go, others will follow, says Hutchins: “The fact that he is doing videos with Stormzy and having photo ops with Drake means that if streetwear guys who don’t watch football are going to get into any player, it would be Pogba.”

By Jamie Millar