We’re all familiar with the old adage that it’s dangerous to sign a player based on his performances at a World Cup, but there is no denying the fact that footballers and their agents view major international tournaments as the perfect opportunity to flaunt their talents to a wider audience.
You only have to cast your mind back four years, when Real Madrid were persuaded to make James Rodriguez their big galactico signing on the strength of his spectacular displays for Colombia in Brazil, for proof of just how desirable a great World Cup can make a player.
The group stage in Russia has already established several contenders to follow in James’ footsteps.
Here, we take a look at five players whose outstanding performances have made them transfer targets.
Aleksandr Golovin, Russia
The 22-year-old playmaker first came to wider attention in April, when he curled a brilliant free-kick beyond Petr Cech - eerily similar to his strike in the final seconds of Russia’s 5-0 dismantling of Saudi Arabia - in the first leg of CSKA Moscow’s Europa League quarter-final against Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger spoke admiringly of Golovin’s talent when the tie was over, fuelling speculation that Arsenal might bid for him this summer. Interest from Juventus followed him into the World Cup, but the Italian giants are reportedly unwilling to meet CSKA’s £27 million asking price and now Chelsea are widely believed to have moved to the front of the race.
CSKA always hoped that Golovin’s performances in the World Cup would boost his value and increase the demand for his unique combination of creativity and industry, and it seems far from coincidental that Chelsea appear to have made their move just as his profile scaled new heights.
Hirving Lozano, Mexico
Now that Germany have been eliminated at the group stage, Lozano’s goal to give a vibrant Mexico victory over the floundering world champions at the Luzhniki Stadium earlier this month will go down as one of the defining moments of the tournament.
It also helped legitimise him as a target for Barcelona, who are reportedly looking hard at the PSV star as they weigh up their options for attacking midfield reinforcements in the wake of Antoine Griezmann’s self-publicised decision to remain with Atletico Madrid.
"There have been approaches, but right now there's nothing concrete," his father Jesus Lozano said in an interview with ESPN on the subject of reported interest from Barcelona and other teams last week. "I think after the World Cup it will be clear if he stays at PSV or leaves for another team."
Juan Quintero, Colombia
Few players arrived in Russia with more to prove than Quintero, the diminutive playmaker once regarded as an even bigger talent than James who was not even starting regularly for Argentine giants River Plate a few months ago.
He dazzled with style and invention in the group stage, bamboozling Japan with a free-kick struck under the wall and assisting Radamel Falcao’s first World Cup goal against Poland with a brilliant disguised through pass. James, struggling for fitness, has not been missed by Colombia as much as he might otherwise have.
River have an option to make Quintero’s loan from Porto permanent for around £3m and are expected to activate it, but most likely only to enable them to sell him on at a profit. Real Madrid and Tottenham are the two clubs linked so far but, if he continues to shine, more could well follow.
After an underwhelming season on loan at Watford, Carrillo was a man transformed for a bright Peru team that won plenty of admirers even while falling well short of qualification from Group C.
Full of flicks and tricks, his slick combinations with Christian Cueva were at the heart of everything Peru did well in the final third and his emphatic goal set them on the path to a deserved – if ultimately meaningless – victory over Australia.
Marco Silva remains a big fan, and there are already suggestions that one of his first acts as Everton’s new manager will be to get them to meet Benfica’s £15m valuation of Carrillo. His speed and flamboyant style would be more than welcome in the Premier League next season if he could produce his World Cup form on a consistent basis.
Ever Banega, Argentina
A slightly strange inclusion on this list given that he started just one of Argentina’s group games, but Banega’s stock was raised just as much by his absence as by his on-pitch contributions towards what has been a chaotic and frequently shambolic campaign under Jorge Sampaoli.
Argentina’s midfield was uninspired until his introduction against Iceland and utterly overrun without him in a humiliating loss to Croatia. Only when Sampaoli relented and picked Banega against Nigeria did his team show even the faintest flicker of invention.
Even more importantly, Lionel Messi came alive, latching on to a sumptuous Banega pass to score one of the great World Cup goals.
Banega has a £17.5 million release clause in his contract and while Sevilla insist he is not for sale, Arsenal have expressed an interest. If he is able to help Messi overcome the odds and lead Argentina deep into this World Cup, the Gunners will not be alone.
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