The World Cup, for the uninitiated, is a tournament that brings 32 nations to the biggest stage. Smaller countries like Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Peru have a chance to battle with better-known football forces like Brazil, Portugal, Germany, and Spain. This tournament captures the passion and imagination (enough to even spark baby booms in successful nations) of many around the world during a 31-day period. Although this tournament is the talking point for many football writers, many do not emphasize the seismic effect that this tournament can have on the valuation of players of winning and losing teams.
This tournament can ultimately catapult a player into the spotlight and in well-known leagues such as the English Premier League, players can benefit (but also fall victim) to the rise in prices due to appearances and performances during World Cup summers. One prime example is that of Serge Aurier, the Tottenham Hotspurs and Ivory Coast national team player.
In 2014, Aurier was part of a very talented, yet underperforming, Ivory Coast squad while also being part of Ligue 1 (French football league) team Toulouse. Prior to the start of the tournament, he signed with Toulouse for a small fee of 1.5 million dollars. Due to his performance at the World Cup, his stock quickly rose while also appealing to many suitors, including Paris Saint Germain from League 1, who decide to purchase him for a fee of 11 million dollars. Two years later, Paris Saint Germain sold him for 29 million dollars to Tottenham Hotspur.
Many clubs with young players on the rise are looking to “cash in” on this raw talent, meanwhile bigger clubs are looking to take advantage now to avoid this surge in pricing. Unfortunately for clubs, this “bargain bin” of players is not very large with many players knowing they can bolster their status while also having enough time prior to the close of the transfer window to move to a larger club, lining their pockets with more money and their lives with more fame.
So, you may be asking who these players are and where do they currently play? Here are three players who could cash in on potential performances at the World Cup:
1. Giovani Lo Celso, 22 years old – PSG and Argentina
- Lo Celso found a way to make 33 appearances in a team that features the legs of Neymar, Mbappe, Di Maria, Cavani, and Draxler. Quite a feat for a young Argentinian who scored 6 goals as a midfielder in 48 appearances. If he is able to break into another insanely talented Argentina squad, Lo Celso could have just done enough to earn himself a starting role in a squad in Spain or England.
2. Achraf Hakimi, 19 years old – Real Madrid and Morocco
- Hakimi excelled through Real Madrid youth system, La Fabrica, the very same academy that gave us players like Dani Carvajal, Iker Casillas, and Raúl. Not a bad set of alumni if you ask me. The Moroccan has already appeared in nine games for the senior Real Madrid team as a right back and scored twice during the 2017-2018 campaign. Predicted by many to be a starter for the Moroccan World Cup campaign, Hakimi could play his way out of the shadows of Danny Carvajal and into a starting role away from Spain.
3. Marcus Rashford, 20 years old – Manchester United and England
- This is perhaps the most controversial pick, but let me explain. Manchester United just dropped a mammoth contract to Alexis Sanchez, a player who will not accept less playing time in favor of growing Rashford despite his impressive 13 goals and nine assists during another uninspiring campaign for Manchester United. The English striker will look to shine during the tournament and who knows, maybe find his way to another top-level club in Europe.
With less than two weeks to the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, many players and teams will be looking to deal prior, during, and after the World Cup. Who will buy that “bargain”? Who will potentially overspend due to a good tournament? No one knows, all that can be said is that the World Cup is sure to bring plenty of surprises, both at club and country level.