The World Cup is soccer’s biggest stage. In odd conditions over a small sample, it can distort perceptions. Players who fail are unfairly tainted. Players who thrive see their value, star power and club interest skyrocket. With fans, clubs and the media reticent to remove their World Cup blinders, the ensuing transfer window often contains some of soccer’s biggest blunders.
Here are 12 World Cup names folks will be hot and bothered about the next couple months. Expect at least three of them to end up on Tottenham’s bench next season, collecting outsized paychecks.
James Rodriguez [M/F – Colombia] This would not be for those clubs sniffing around the bargain bin, as Rodriguez moved to AS Monaco for about $60 million last summer. But, there has been some plausible smoke about him wanting to move to a bigger club and a better league. He’s been perhaps the best player in Brazil. Multiple major clubs, including Manchester United and Barcelona, will be looking to make a splash this summer. The team that was looking at Luis Suarez before the third successful bite may make a run at the “next Cristiano Ronaldo” instead.
Juan Cuadrado [M – Colombia] Not willing to spend James Rodriguez cash? Cuadrado may be your Colombian of choice. He’s having a monster World Cup, with a goal and four assists through four matches. The 26-year-old is being linked with every big English club, not to mention Barcelona. He does not have the track record at Fiorentina to warrant a $35 million-plus bid, but the post-World Cup transfer season has seldom been rational.
Keylor Navas [GK – Costa Rica] Navas was already on major clubs’ radars, following a great season for Levante in Spain. The 27-year-old has continued his form in Brazil, being perhaps the preeminent goalkeeper in the tournament. With one year left on his Levante contract and clubs such as champions Atletico Madrid looking for a goalkeeper, he’s sure to be on the move after the World Cup.
Guillermo Ochoa [GK – Mexico] Ochoa put in perhaps the goalkeeping performance of the tournament against Brazil and looked stellar throughout. He brings some devastating hair game. Ochoa had a strong season at French club AC Ajaccio. He’s also a free agent, after his club was relegated. Someone will want to sell oodles of jerseys in Mexico.
Enner Valencia [F – Ecuador] Valencia converted from winger to striker. He has been in torrid form ever since, scoring 18 goals in 22 starts for his Mexican club Pachuca. That continued with the national side in the World Cup, where he scored three goals in the group stage. He’s not the tallest, but accounts for it with athleticism. European teams interested in reasonably priced goal-scoring: every single one. Just a hunch, but keep an eye on Roberto Martinez at Everton.
Mauricio Isla [D – Chile] Chileans are the hot trend this season. Not everyone can get into the Alexis Sanchez bidding. Right backs are often unheralded, but every team needs one. Isla has not quite established himself in two years at Juventus after a great spell at Udinese. The Italian club may be willing to sell high on him.
Daley Blind [D/M – Netherlands] The 24-year-old left back and defensive midfielder is the reigning Dutch Football of the Year. That form carried into the World Cup, where he had two assists against Spain, including the one on this spectacular Robin Van Persie goal. Like all prominent Dutchmen, expect him to leave the nest for a larger pay packet and better competition.
Andre Ayew [M – Ghana] The 24-year-old winger is primed for a move from Marseilles to a bigger club. L’OM are primed to cash in, with him having one year left on his contract. Not a bad time for him to score against the United States and Germany. Latest rumors have him going to Manchester United or Liverpool.
Giancarlo Gonzalez [D- Costa Rica] Gonzalez was released by his Norwegian club in 2013 and ended up in MLS with the Colombus Crew in February. But, the 26-year-old has been one of the best central defenders in the tournament. He performed well against both the English and the Italian national teams. Could he ride that magic to a top European league?
Memphis Depay [M – Netherlands] He’s a quick, 20-year-old Dutch winger. He just scored two goals off the bench in the group stage. He has a sexy name that doesn’t require relentless spell-checking. Not surprisingly, he’s being linked with all the English clubs. It’s like someone went to central casting for a Tottenham signing.
Serge Aurier [Ivory Coast] The 21-year-old right back followed up an excellent season in France by assisting on both goals in the Ivory Coast win over Japan. He has pace, agility and is a deadly accurate passer. He’s been a long-rumored replacement for Bacary Sagna at Arsenal, though, after his Brazil performance, they may have some competitors.
Kostas Manolas [Greece] The 23-year-old Olympiacos defender has been, if “reports” are to be believed, on the radar of just about every major club in Europe for about a year. A strong World Cup at the heart of a defense that led Greece to the knockout rounds won’t diminish that interest in the slightest.