So the World Cup is now over – but don’t despair – take a hearty swig of our hair of the dog to cure your football hangover as we have a glance at five top talents who could well be washing up on the shores of Blighty very soon.
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Costa Rica were a surprise package like no other during this year’s World Cup. Their opening 3-1 win against Uruguay would have had many onlookers doing double takes, but the performances of the Central Americans left no doubt that they were there to upset the apple cart – and boy did they. Costa Rica finished top of a group that contained three former champions in Italy, Uruguay and England, only to be knocked out in the quarter-finals on penalties to the Dutch. A key factor in their remarkable progress was the sternness of their defence and the imperious goalkeeper, Keylor Navas.
Navas was statistically among the best to pull on a pair of gloves in La Liga last season, keeping an impressive 17 clean sheets for Levante. The 27 year old continued his fine form by registring a shut-out in three of his five World Cup games – only finalists Manuel Neuer and Sergio Romero recorded more. In fact, Navas recorded the highest percentage of saves made (91.3%) ahead of second placed Neuer (85.2%). Navas’s contract at Levante expires next year but his club are holding out until his reported €10 million release clause is met. Atletico Madrid have already had a big rejected amidst potential interest from Bayern Munich.
Possible destination: Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal.
Historically, left-back has been somewhat of a problem position for Argentina over recent years. It seems however, that a remedy for that particular issue has arrived in the shape of Marcos Rojo. The 24 year-old has turned in some fine performances during this year’s tournament, doing his bit defensively by keeping three clean sheets and also helping himself to a goal in the Argentines’ 3-2 victory over Nigeria.
Currently plying his trade in Portugal, Rojo made the Argentina squad off the back of a magnificent season with Sporting which saw them concede just 20 goals – the best in the league. At 6’1″ tall, Rojo has frequently featured at the heart of the defence but has demonstrated his ease with the ball at his feet and a turn of pace that enables him to slot in at full-back comfortably.
Possible destination: Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham, Arsenal
2014 is a year that will live long in the memory for Colombia fans. Having qualified for their first World Cup since 1998, the Colombians reached the quarter-final stage for the first time in the history, playing a blend of enigmatic, fast paced style of football which captured the imagination of more than a few.
Colombia found themselves without the prolific frontman Radamel Falcao in Brazil after the Monaco striker ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament earlier in the year. Falcao’s Monaco teammate James Rodriguez has suitably filled his boots, as the playmaker netted six goals to claim the Golden Boot, but the form of winger Juan Cuadrado has caught the eye despite Rodriguez basking in the limelight. The Fiorentina man was the most inventive player in the competition, notching up an impressive four assists and a goal from the spot against Japan.
The 26 year-old’s lightning speed and dazzling trickery makes him a menace to any full-back. His gaffer at the Viola – former Roma legend Vincenzo Montella – has stated that he won’t stand in the way if Cuadrado wants to move, and it’s safe to assume that there will be a queue of clubs looking to secure the signature of the wide man who bagged 11 goals last term.
Possible destination: Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool
It seems almost a lifetime ago when Robin van Persie’s looping header sailed over Iker Casillas’s head to begin the 5-1 rout over reigning World and European champions, Spain. Following that sensational result, the Dutch went on to enjoy a particularly fruitful tournament, finishing third overall after missing out on the final by losing to Argentina on penalties. While the goalscoring exploits of Arjen Robben and van Persie grabbed the headlines, one man who had a shining influence on the progress of the Oranje was Daley Blind.
Blind provided the impeccably weighted cross for van Persie’s finish and then went on to help himself to another assist – for Robben to put the Dutch in front – as the Ajax man showed he had quite the eye for a pass. Blind started the game in Salvador at left wing-back but was also fielded on the opposite flank and in defensive midfield. Such was his adeptness at slotting into multiple positions, Blind found himself as one of Louis van Gaal’s key men, and it’s little surprise then that he has been strongly linked to follow van Gaal to Old Trafford.
Blind – the son of former Ajax legend and member of the Dutch backroom staff, Danny – ended the tournament by adding a goal against Brazil. Last season, while playing in midfield, he made 44 appearances and a record 77 tackles, helping himself to the Dutch player of the year award along the way. He also won Ajax’s player of the year while playing at left-back the previous season.
Possible destination: Manchester United, Chelsea
Probably the most recognisable name on this list, the contents of Sami Khedira’s trophy cabinet are eviable to say the least – with the two latest additions being Champions League and World Cup winners’ medals from the same year. Khedira of course currently plies his trade in Spain with Real Madrid, but has been heavily linked with a move away from the club where he has won a La Liga title and two Copa Del Rey’s.
The German endured rather than enjoyed the 2013/14 domestic season as he ruptured his cruciate ligament which kept him out of action for most of Los Blancos’ campaign. With Tottenham’s former midfield maestro Luka Modric finally finding his feet in a Real Madrid shirt and the apparently impending arrival of fellow countryman Toni Kroos, it looks like Khedira may be shown the exit door at the Bernabeu. Regardless of his recent injury problems, Germany coach Jorgi Low showed his faith in Khedira’s abilities and popped him straight back into his side. The former Stuttgart man made 7 World Cup appearances, scoring and getting an assist in the 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil, but sadly missed out on any game-time in the final after injuring himself in the warm-up.
One of Khedira’s main strengths is his willingness and energy in which he breaks forward from midfield with the ball. At 6’2″ he casts a commanding figure on his bursting runs and is a difficult man to stop – netting 16 goals and providing 19 more during his time in Germany, while also notching up 13 assists for Real Madrid. It’s thought that a move to Arsenal could well be on the horizon, and a new role in which he adopts a more defensive outlook to protect the back four while Aaron Ramsey fulfils his attacking duties might be a part of Arsene Wenger’s plans.
Possible destination: Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United