Not only is the World Cup the pinnacle of players’ careers, a chance to help lead their nation to glory, but it also remains the most visible of shop windows. Previous tournaments have been littered with examples of players who have earned transfers based largely on their performances over a few summer weeks.
Some have paid off handsomely. Gilberto Silva was an unspectacular but vital presence at the base of midfield for a Brazil side that lifted the trophy in 2002, helping to earn a move to Arsenal where he formed a key part of the Premier League side’s unbeaten, title-winning season. Just four years ago, Germany’s young squad caused a major stir en route to the semifinals, with two of their standout players, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil, being snapped up by Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Increasingly, with clubs now employing global scouting networks, it takes more than just a few games at the World Cup to persuade suitors to spend big. After all, there have been numerous instances of it going horribly wrong. Notably, Liverpool were convinced to pay a sizable sum to capture Senegalese forward El-Hadji Diouf after he had played a major role in helping his country shock holders France in the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. His time on Merseyside, though, would feature as many controversies as goals. Paul Gascoigne’s starring role in Italy in 1990 was the catalyst for his later move to Rome outfit Lazio, but, although something of a cult hero, injuries and off-field problems meant he made little impact on the pitch.
Clubs can still be persuaded to get their check book out or add an extra zero onto their valuation if a player gets pulses racing on soccer’s biggest stage.
Here are seven players who could help earn themselves a big move in Brazil.
Michael Bradley (USA, Toronto FC)
There was some surprise when Bradley left Italian giants Roma to move back to Major League Soccer with Toronto FC in January. The massive salary he is receiving in Canada is a powerful reason for him to be happy where he is, but there is cause to think that his displays at the World Cup could lead to some tempting offers to return to Europe, at the very least on loan during the MLS offseason. While the clamor over Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the squad and the fact that Clint Dempsey will wear the captain’s armband in Brazil show the esteem with which those two players are still held, there can be little doubt that it is Bradley who is now the United States’ most important player. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann clearly realizes this and has spent much time designing a system to get the best out of the 26-year-old’s skills -- an incredible engine and appetite to break forward and increasingly impressive passing in the final third.
Antoine Griezmann (France, Real Sociedad)
Following an injury to Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery, left-sided forward Griezmann could now have a sizable part to play for France at the World Cup. There is plenty to suggest that he could make a major impression and further interest in him that is already thought to be forthcoming from Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United. The 23-year-old had his international career derailed by a ban for some late-night extracurricular activities when on duty for the Under-21 squad, but on the back of 16 goals in La Liga for Real Sociedad is now ready to prove his worth for France. Griezmann has scored three goals in France’s pre-World Cup warm ups and more could well be forthcoming in Brazil.
Luiz Gustavo (Wolfsburg, Brazil)
What Gilberto Silva did in 2002, Luiz Gustavo could do likewise in 2014 -- in more ways than one. When Brazil’s winning coach in South Korea and Japan, Luiz Felipe Scolari, was reappointed to the role just 18 months ago, the hosts looked far from future World Cup winners. But everything then came together at last summer’s Confederations Cup, with Luiz Gustavo’s introduction to hold down the base of the midfield a key factor. His disciplined and efficient performances at that tournament saw Arsenal keen to offer him the regular action he was unable to get with then European champions Bayern Munich. He Instead surprised many by staying in Germany with Wolfsburg. But if Gustavo were to be equally influential this summer as last and this time help Brazil lift the World Cup on home soil, then Arsenal and several other clubs will doubtless be trying to persuade him to rethink his decision.
Jefferson Montero (Ecuador, Monarcas Morelia)
Few players look better poised to garner a move to a more high-profile club than Montero, who for the time being remains in Mexico. Ecuador is a team unlikely to go far in Brazil, but could entertain while they are around with an attack centered on getting the ball quickly out wide. Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia is Ecuador’s best-known player, yet it is the man on the opposite flank who could well leave the bigger impression. Capable of terrorizing defenders with direct running and ability to go with either foot, if Montero can get his final ball right more often than not then a move to one of Europe’s major leagues will surely soon follow.
Mario Balotelli (Italy, AC Milan)
Balotelli remains one of soccer’s great enigmas. His talent is not in question, but what goes on between his ears continues to prevent him from fulfilling it on a regular basis. After a difficult season with Milan, there are rumors that the Italian club is willing to cash in, but a likely asking price of around £25 million ($42 million) could prove a deterrent given the player’s previous problems. His performances with Italy in Brazil then could play a major part in his future. With growing competition for a place up front, there is not even a guarantee that Balotelli will start for Italy. Still, if he can get a game and can repeat the performances he produced in helping the Azzurri to the final of Euro 2012, the some major teams could well be persuaded to take a chance on the former Manchester City man. Arsenal could be a possible destination.
William Carvalho (Portugal, Sporting Lisbon)
Born in the former Portuguese colony of Angola, Carvalho has enjoyed a rapid rise since returning from a loan spell in Belgium and breaking into the first team of Sporting Lisbon last season. A debut for Portugal soon followed in last November’s playoff win over Sweden and the holding midfielder has now put pressure on coach Paulo Bento to throw him into the starting lineup at the World Cup. A £37 million ($62 million) asking price is sizable for a 22-year-old with little experience at the top level and suitors Manchester United appear to have backed off after a change of coach. However, such a fee will not look so exorbitant if he can give a full account of his talents over the next month.
Juilo Cesar (Brazil, Queens Park Rangers)
At the opposite end of his career to most on this list, 34-year-old Cesar will still be aiming to enhance his options after the World Cup, in addition to his prime goal of helping Brazil to glory. A Champions League winner with Inter Milan in 2010, when he was one of the world’s best goalkeepers, things quickly took a nosedive after a blunder that led to Brazil exiting the 2010 World Cup in the quarterfinals. A move to English side Queens Park Rangers two years ago has done much to enhance his bank account but little to fulfill him in a sporting sense and Cesar had to take a loan move to Toronto FC in order to simply get some playing time ahead of the World Cup. After QPR’s promotion back to the Premier League, his future remains uncertain, but a few clean sheets this summer could tempt a club to match his current high salary.