Willian football

World Cup 2018: Five Players at the top of Shopping Lists

10 months ago

There have been countless instances through the years when a footballer has leapt to global attention after a series of fine performances in a major competition.

Who can forget former Arsenal boss George Graham signing John Jensen after his stellar showings for Denmark, who won the European Championships in 1992. Graham claimed he had solved the club’s goalscoring problem with the fiery midfielder, who had netted his country’s opener in the final against Germany.

Had Graham done his research, however, he would have found out that the Dane had netted just four goals in a club career spanning more than 90 games up to that point! Jensen’s lack of quality in front of goal earned him cult hero status at Arsenal, with fans printing up ‘I was there when Jensen scored’ t-shirts when he final broke his Gunners duck after 98 appearances for the club.

Of course, George Graham isn’t the only manager to have fallen foul of the ‘recency effect’. Russia’s Oleg Salenko blasted six goals in the group stage of World Cup ’94, and his exploits earned him a move to Valencia. He lasted a solitary season before being shipped out to Rangers.

And Liverpool fans thought they had landed a bargain when they signed El-Hadji Diouf, the Senegal striker whose dazzling displays helped the African nation to the quarter finals of World Cup 2002 and earned him a place in the All Stars squad. The move did not go well, however, with the forward’s off-the-field behaviour and alleged lack of commitment earning him the tag of ‘worst player I ever played with’ from Jamie Carragher in his autobiography.

Mind you, it’s not all doom and gloom. Real Madrid have captured the likes of Angel Di Maria and James Rodriguez on the back of excellent World Cup campaigns, while Chilean Marcelo Salas went from River Plate to Lazio on the back of four goals in as many games at World Cup ‘98. Cup Winners’ Cup, European Super Cup and Italian Cup wins later, it would be fair to suggest the move was a positive one.

And so managers and recruitment teams that do their due diligence might just pick up a bargain or two at the World Cup, while for others seeking more established names, they will have their shopping list and pen in hand making notes on those likely to be seeking pastures new at the conclusion of the summer showpiece.

Here are five players who could make big money moves this summer:

Antoine Griezmann  

The French forward has long been touted with a move away from Atletico Madrid, a side who look to have hit their own ceiling in Spanish football given that they lack the resources to challenge Barcelona and Real Madrid for domestic honours.

At the age of 27, Griezmann naturally seeks silverware, and while Atleti won the Europa League this term – aided by a Griezmann brace in the final – it is believed that that the left-footer wants to join Barca and challenge for some major trophies.

The bookmakers certainly seem to think so anyway, given that they have made the French ace odds-on to leave the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano this summer, although influential Spanish newspaper Marca reports that he had in fact decided to stay at Atleti – although the severity of the booing and jeering he received from his own fans in the 2-2 draw with Eibar on Sunday actually reduced the player to tears on the pitch.

So whether Griezmann will leave the Madrid club remains to be seen, but one thing that is for sure is that if he has a strong World Cup there will be plenty of takers ready to splash out world record sums on the Frenchman.

Toby Alderweireld

The Tottenham defender has been left out in the cold in London after losing his place to Davinson Sanchez, and it appears ever-likely that the Belgian international will leave the club this summer.

It is being widely reported in the media that Manchester United either have or are preparing to table a £55 million bid for the centre back, who had been a key figure in Spurs’ rise to one of the most consistent teams in the land prior to injury.

A move to another English club could have serious ramifications for Mauricio Pochettino’s side, and would cast doubts on their ability to establish themselves as a genuine Premier League title contender.


Willian football

To use the parlance of young folk, Willian threw some serious shade at Chelsea boss Antonio Conte in the wake of their FA Cup final victory over Manchester United at the weekend.

The Brazilian posted a picture to his Instagram account of his teammates celebrating with the trophy afterwards, but he had rather naughtily posted a series of cup emojis over Conte to obscure him from the photo.

Willian has recently lost his place in the Chelsea starting eleven after his manager changed formation to a 3-5-1-1 set up, and it would appear that he will become something of an outcast should Conte decide to stay at the Londoners.

So the winger will be looking to put in some strong showings at the World Cup….if he can get a game that is. Brazil are well stocked with quality forwards and the Chelsea man might find himself down the pecking order behind the likes of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Douglas Costa, Fred and others. 

Timo Werner

Germany have been crying out for a top-class centre forward for some time, and they might just have unearthed a gem in Timo Werner.

According to WhoScored no striker aged 21 or under has scored more goals since the start of the 2016/17 campaign than the RB Leipzig frontman.

Werner added another 22 to his tally in 2017/18, and clearly his stock is rising while that of his employers is slowly diminishing; the Red Bull franchise finished sixth in the Bundesliga after a second-place return just a year prior.

A young striker with a knack for putting the ball in the net….those are worth their weight in gold, and if Werner can displace Thomas Muller in Germany’s starting eleven in Russia then he might just have secured himself a big money deal this summer.

Jack Butland

Jurgen Klopp has expressed interest in this goalkeeper.

The first mission for Jack Butland in the coming weeks is to convince Gareth Southgate that he, and not Jordan Pickford, should be selected as England’s number one at the World Cup.

If he can do that, you would expect his second mission – securing a transfer to a top flight club – will follow rather naturally.

Butland is currently employed by Stoke City, who were relegated to the Championship, and even that demotion does not appear to have damaged his stock too badly.

Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, who remains unconvinced by his current goalkeeping options, is said to be monitoring the situation.


Written by Craig Simpkin

A sports journalist with a smorgasbord of experience writing for a variety of publications, Craig is a Leicester fan hoping that England can also achieve the impossible this summer.