As the years have passed and technology has improved, the possibility of unknown players appearing out of nowhere to participate in the World Cup has drastically diminished. Routine use of analytics, ‘digital scouting’ (where video clips are prioritized over the need to see a player in person) and accurate data available from around the world means that almost any national team player stands out from the age of 15, no matter where they come from. , is usually reported immediately.
As a result, when it comes to the transfer market, the major leagues are now just a place where final checks are carried out by clubs looking for confirmation that a player has the quality to join them. Exercising a player’s referee at a World Cup – when the pressure is unlike any other in pursuit of the grandest trophy of all time – is still instructive and watching how a player behaves while representing his country in such a scenario offers scouts and club representatives more insight into their character. But, for the most part, clubs are already fully aware of what they’re dealing with.
However, this year’s World Cup presents some more challenges than usual. Qatar 2022 begins on November 20 (a week after the European domestic season was suspended) and ends on December 18 (a week before the Premier League returns on December 26.) with the month-long January transfer window opening on the first of the month. The time will be short for clubs to take advantage of what they have learned from the players on the field. But with international football taking center stage next month and no domestic matches getting in the way, clubs may have more breathing room to figure out what they want.
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Facing the World Cup in the middle of the European season will already have an impact on overall campaign planning – particularly in terms of how players’ fitness is measured and determined. It’s almost like getting a second introductory look at you — though the same could be said of the disruption at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most clubs will treat the upcoming break as an opportunity to assess and adjust or continue to implement their priorities before the January window.
Scouting meetings with agents for players not participating in the World Cup are likely to take place a few weeks earlier than usual. With the usual November and pre-Christmas schedule winding down, clubs will be left to base their judgment on the evidence gathered in advance, paving the way for imminent concrete negotiations. As a result, you may see more deals agreed in principle before January 1st.
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When it comes to the financial side, due to the current economic downturn and the global pandemic over recent years, the big European clubs have already had to become more flexible and adopt a higher degree of diligence when it comes to new signings. However, any potential acquisition on the back of impressive World Cup performances is likely to come at a huge premium, as a player’s transfer fee will rise with each goal, assist, tackle or save (unless their contract expires in 2023).
January is not usually a time to spend a lot of money, but clubs could be pushed into signing cover for injuries, fatigue or simply taking advantage of an opportunity that would not have otherwise presented itself.
For players, the timing of the tournament provides a new element not normally applied to the regular annual Scouting tournament, so those headlining players have a unique opportunity to put themselves front and center to catch the eye of club owners, chiefs and financiers who will all be watching the action unfolding in Qatar.
This has happened before, but history provides a warning that things don’t always work out for the best when you base a transition on World Cup performance. Below are some examples of former stars, as well as some names clubs will likely be watching closely at this tournament.
World Cup wonders of the past
James Rodriguez, AM, Monaco to Real Madrid, €75m, 2014
Despite being a rising star thanks to promising campaigns with FC Porto and Monaco, the Colombia international midfielder has put himself firmly on the map with some stunning appearances at the 2014 World Cup. Not only did Rodriguez win the Golden Boot with six goals – a rare feat for a midfielder A striker, not to mention a team that hasn’t even made it to the semi-finals – but his superb spinning volley against Uruguay also won him the Puskas Award. for the general purpose. No stranger to signing the world’s hottest young players, Real Madrid quickly swooped in and clinched a €75m transfer before the tournament was over. While Rodriguez can hardly be called a total flop at the Bernabeu – he scored 13 league goals in his first season and won two LaLiga titles and the Champions League twice – his six-year stay was a shadow of what it could have been. After a loan at Bayern Munich, an unremarkable spell at Everton and a short stint at Qatari club Al-Rayyan, the 31-year-old is now at home in Greece with Olympiacos.
El Hadji Diouf, striker from Lens to Liverpool, 15 million euros, 2002
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier wasted no time recruiting the Senegalese striker after the Africans’ shock 1-0 defeat of France in the opening match of the 2002 World Cup. With his trademark dyed hair, Diouf never gave Diouf the comfort of the French defense with his powerful running and skills, and at just 21 years old. He seemed to have all the requirements to become the next big player. Although he did not score during the tournament, he set up three goals and seemed more than relieved to have the world’s eyes on him as Senegal fell to Turkey in the quarter-finals. However, Liverpool and Diouf never proved to be a perfect match and the controversial striker left Anfield for Bolton (initially on loan, then for a third of the €15m Liverpool paid Lens) after three seasons. He continued his respectable career in the Premier League scoring 28 goals in 243 appearances for clubs like Sunderland, Leeds and Blackburn before retiring in Malaysian Sabah in 2015.
Gilberto Silva, DM, Atlético MG to Arsenal, €9m, 2002
Almost unknown outside South America at the time, the No. 6-ranked midfielder was instrumental in Brazil’s successful 2002 campaign – he didn’t miss a single minute of play – and Arsenal picked him up before the festivities were over. Known as an invisible wall for his tackling and stamina, Silva quickly became as indispensable to his new club as he proved to be to his country, providing poise and grit to one of the best sides of the Premier League era. After six seasons under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger – with over 250 appearances, a Premier League title and two FA Cups to his name – Silva left for Panathinaikos in the summer of 2008.
Inner Valencia, FW, Pachuca to West Ham, 15 million euros, 2014
Valencia, who was little known at the time, scored three goals in his first two matches for Ecuador at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and caught the attention of the world. If his goals weren’t enough, Valencia also impressed with his incredible speed, direct runs, great turns and some unpredictability. Despite having only signed for Pachuca in Liga MX a year earlier from Ecuadorian side Emelec, West Ham quickly paid €15m to bring Valencia to Upton Park that summer. Although his stay in the Premier League never lived up to what his World Cup displays promised, he scored 10 goals in 68 appearances for West Ham and three goals in 23 on a one-season loan at Everton. He left for Liga MX’s Tigres in 2017, scoring 34 goals in 118 matches in a three-year spell before moving to Turkey, where he is currently Fenerbahçe’s top league scorer this season with 12 goals in 11 matches. Valencia is a sure starter for his country in this edition as well.
World Cup 2022, the wonders of the future?
Cody Gakbo, 23, forward, PSV / Netherlands
With dozens of elite European clubs already on his way, including Manchester United, the next few weeks could be crucial for the PSV winger’s future. Gakpo has already established himself in the Eredivisie – he has 36 goals and 39 assists from 105 matches – and looks ready to step up. Brilliantly gifted on the ball, with the ultimate product and defensive contributions to the game, the Dutch striker has the essentials to become a team-maker at the highest level. Although his scoring may have dried up in recent weeks, the assists and key passes have continued to flow. If he shines in Qatar, a €60m transfer fee could seem cheap.
Ikoma “Lois” Openda, 22, FW, Lens/Belgium
With only four senior caps to his name, the Openda could be somewhat of a wild card for Belgium. While there is fierce competition for a place in the attacking line, the Lens forward has the advantage. His hat-trick off the bench against Toulouse two weeks ago in Ligue 1 was not only a sign of his fine form, but also suggested he could be used as an ‘excellent substitute’, and he scored within seven minutes of his first national team goal. Debuted against Poland in June. Openda likes to play on the shoulders of defenders, always threatens the offside line, and is excellent at finding space in the penalty area. The 22-year-old failed to make an impact after coming to Club Brugge, but his development over the past year at Vitesse and Lens has been impressive and he has seven goals from 14 appearances this season.
Moises Caicedo, 21, DM, Brighton/Ecuador
It’s usually the players with attacking flair who catch the most attention during major tournaments, but can the Ecuadorean midfielder prove he’s Gilberto Silva this year? As endless as the demand for difference-makers in the final third seems to be, the desire for an effective and powerful presence in central midfield should not be underestimated either. Signed to Brighton in January 2021, worth £4.5m, Caicedo was sent out on loan to Beerschot but returned in January 2022 and shrewdly eased into the rhythm of the Premier League. His week-on-week improvement did not go unnoticed by the European football powerhouses. In addition to being tactically disciplined, the hardworking Ecuadorian handles, locks, intercepts and moves the ball without much fuss (although he can also catch a deep run). Outside the Premier League, however, Brighton has already been reported to want £85m for his services.