The World Cup is the pinnacle of football as a sport. It showcases the game’s finest talents on a global stage and can attract the gaze of millions to any one of its 736 players.
Some excel in the high-pressure environment of a knockout tournament, turning it on as the competition takes no prisoners.
But what happens upon returning to their usual, domestic level? For those who burn brightest just four weeks every four years, a big-money move may well be on the cards having caught the world’s onlooking eye.
As pundits and writers, scouts and gaffers rant and rave about their ability in the toughest of situations, people begin to lose their heads somewhat and rational decisions are forgone.
Be warned: it will happen again this year.
With Russia providing some of the finest moments in World Cup history, stars have been forged. But stars burn out and stars, ultimately, die. For this year’s shiniest balls of gas, a big-money move would be career suicide and financial delusion.
Helpfully, we’ve picked out four players who may well have excelled this summer, but would be far from a wise investment for a potential future club. Take note, super agents, you’ll thank us later.
Domagoj Vida – Croatia
The rumour mill has already begun turning its vast cogs for this ponytailed chap, and we can only despair. Vida had a solid World Cup, suring up Croatia’s defensive line against some challenging opponents. He was brave, sturdy and threatened going forward: scoring his country’s equaliser to take their quarter-final with the hosts through to victorious penalties.
Looking at the tournament, the fella seems a wise buy for most clubs in Europe. But domestically, he’s been poor. Vida is ill disciplined, doesn’t play regularly and has never been challenged at the highest level club-wise.
The Beşiktaş centre-back may seem a romantic signing to swoop up one of Russia’s heroes, but it’d be a disaster for whoever manages it. Though, more importantly, you’ve seen the barnet. Who’d want that around?
Nacer Chadli – Belgium
Chadli played in six of Belgium’s seven World Cup games and helped to lead his country to a record-breaking third place finish. He adopted a slightly more defensive position to what we’ve typically seen in England, with Roberto Martinez seemingly favouring the role of the wing-back. Chadli even started in a back four in Belgium’s semi-final defeat to France but still managed to net a heroic last minute winner from the bench against Japan.
Given the calibre of the Belgian team, a Championship player featuring so prominently was eye-catching stuff. But sadly that’s all Chadli will remain from now on in: eye-catching Championship stock.
His time with Spurs was flawed and playing for West Brom last season was joyless, missing 18 league games through injury and 12 through exclusion. Having a good season with the Baggies has to be his focus now and a step up should follow from then on. Not now, not this soon. It would be a short-sighted chimera at best.
Kieran Trippier – England
Stop, breathe, collect yourself. Trips is a personal favourite and had a genuinely class tournament for England. He will undoubtedly excel at Spurs next season and we’re not calling into question the bloke’s quality.
But a big-money move shouldn’t come into consideration. The Bury Beckham performed so well at this tournament because the team was set-up in a way that suited him, with pacy wing-backs working the channels and fuelling a goal-hungry big-man. Southgate’s style was clear and Trippier fitted it perfectly. He’ll do well at Tottenham, too, because the setup is not dissimilar.
He and the likes of Danny Rose can work the wings as they did this summer and feed the same goal-hungry big-man with ease and chemistry.
But no club will change their tactical approach to suit a defender, it simply won’t ever happen. Should Trips make a switch one day, it would have to be to a club trying to implement the England way of doing things. That’s just how it is now in north London and heading anywhere else would kill the lad’s momentum stone dead. Stay put, Kieran.
Kylian Mbappé – France
Again: stop, breathe, collect yourself. These two bombshells in a row are a recipe for serious aneurysms. Mbappé was electric at times and performed well beyond the realm of a normal 19-year-old. Most of us were still nicking our dad’s beers at his age but this lad is superhuman.
Having said that, he still has room to improve and searing pace can only get him so far. The French side is a myriad of attacking talent and the young man had the likes of Olivier Giroud to play off. That tactical setup won’t be the case everywhere and at some point he’ll have to become the main man, the target and lynchpin for an entire team. He’s not ready yet.
We know he made his mega-money switch just seven months ago, but rumours abound now as they will indefinitely for all of Mbappé’s promising career. Shaking things up too soon could prove catastrophic and the French star ought to consolidate his Young Player award and enjoy learning with some of the world’s finest talents at PSG first.
Perhaps if he proves himself in Qatar, another giant may come calling. And at least then it would work out.