Wednesday, August 23, 2017

World Cup Stock Watch

By Alex Labidou

Even though many top soccer coaches don’t put a lot of stock into the World Cup as a barometer of talent, sometimes a lot can be answered by a player’s performance in the competition.

How does he perform under pressure? Can he get along with other star personalities? How does he stack up against some of the world’s best?

These are just some of the questions that scouts look into when determining whether or not a player can be a good signing based on World Cup performances.  For household names like Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, performances in the World Cup don’t add much to their already sky high values. However, for a guy like Michael Bradley or Keisuke Honda, who play on teams with a lot less exposure, a strong performance can be difference on the path to stardom.  Adversely, infighting or consistent poor performances can result in teams taking a step back.

Here are five guys whose stock has risen since the start of the World Cup:

  1. Luis Suarez (URU): Before the ingenious controversial handball that saved his team from a sure exit from the World Cup, Suarez was proving that his propensity for scoring isn’t limited to the club level on smaller leagues. There has speculation for ages that Suarez would be moving from Ajax but scouts questioned whether the 5’11 forward could be effective considering his lack of blistering speed. Against some of the world’s best defenses, he has displayed the technical skill that makes him so deadly.
  2. Andre Ayew (GHA): The son of Ghanaian legend Abede Pele, Ayew has proven to be a prodigy at 20-years old. He has amazing pace and while he is still raw in his technical ability, his dribbling and passing are very deadly. In PUMA’s African Unity Experience prior to the World Cup, Ayew admitted that his agent was already receiving offers for him in the Premier League. Don’t be surprised if he lands in England during the summer transfer window.
  3. Michael Bradley (USA): A box to box midfielder in the United States’ lineup, Bradley had arguably the most consistent World Cup out of the Americans. He played every minute of the USA’s four matches and was strong both in attack and defense. There is a strong rumor that if Bob Bradley lands in Fulham, he will be taking his son and Brad Guzan to the side. The Craven Cottage side would be very deadly then.
  4. Keisuke Honda(JPN): Already a legend in his native Japan at only 24 years of age, Honda has the chance to be one of the greatest Asian footballers of all time. He was already making a huge impression with his strong performances for CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, his silky passes and scary finishing touch have teams around Europe drooling. AC Milan has already made their interest public and see Honda as a huge boast in marketing.
  5. 5. Rais M’Bolhi (ALG): M’Bolhi currently plays in Bulgaria but the 24-year old goalkeeper has had trials at big clubs including Manchester United.  While he only played in two World Cup games,  M’Bolhi made quite the impression making multiple saves to shut out England. If it wasn’t for Landon Donovan pouncing on a rebound, M’Bolhi single handedly would have knocked the US out of the competition. For a team like Arsenal, who has consistent problems at goal, M’Bolhi might be a cheap option to take a look at.

Here are five guys whose stock has dropped since the start of the World Cup:

1.Yoann Gourcuff (FRA): While Gourcuff wasn’t the ringleader of the France’s player rebellion that made the country the laughing stock of the world, Gourcuff played terribly throughout the tournament. Some of the treatment by his fellow veteran teammates were unwarranted for the younger, but great players rise to the occasion and he was nowhere to be found. With Laurent Blanc’s departure at Bordeaux to coach the French national team, many believed that Gourcuff was heading to either Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea.  Here’s betting that the 23-year old stays in France for another season.

2. Chindeau Obasi (NIG): There were high hopes for Obasi and Nigeria in the World Cup. The 24-year old is similar in stature to Emmanuel Adebayor but his inability to finish was clearily evident throughout the World Cup. Obasi is fast and strong but his woeful finishing and subpar passing makes it difficult for scouts to determine whether or not he’s a striker or a winger.

3. Milos Krasic(SRB): Labeled the Serbian Aaron Lennon, Krasic definitely has speed to spare. The problem lies with his passing and to a lesser extent, his ability to cross. As a winger, both are necessary to succeed in the highest level.  At 25years of age,  Krasic might have cost himself millions as he will probably need another year in Russia or on a new smaller team to hone his skills.

4. Fernando Torres (SPA): Torres might be a household name but many teams are starting to wonder if the 26-year old’s vast ability has been significantly hampered from two knee surgeries over the past year. There will be teams that will still take a chance on him as he is a global star but will they be willing to meet Liverpool’s demands of 75 million pounds. Prior to all of the injuries, that would be a fair price but Chelsea’s rumored 40 to 50 million offer should be very telling.

5. Frank Lampard (ENG): It has been said in many circles that Lampard and fellow England midfielder Steven Gerrard were competing for a spot on Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Lampard can’t be blamed for being placed in a system that plays him as a holding midfielder, it’s not his game. Yet, Lampard’s age (32) and inability to provide much aside from offense will most likely lean Mourinho towards Gerrard.

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