Friday, June 18, 2010
The World Cup is, quite simply, the biggest shop window in football. A great chance to see a whole host of unknown players performing on the biggest stage of all, it is the perfect way to judge whether they have got what it takes to shine under pressure, and Premier League managers will be out in South Africa in force even as you read this.
Indeed, the likes of David Moyes and Roberto Martinez are there on punditry duty, but I’ll bet anything you like that they won’t reveal absolutely everything they take from the games they see to the millions of listeners around the world – it’s a dangerous game hunting for rough diamonds, you never know when the likes of Mancini or Redknapp are gonna’ be peering over your shoulder, ready to outbid.
The one thing that is certain though, is that some of the players we see turning out for their countries in this World Cup will secure a dream move to the Premier League later in the summer, or even a little further down the line. So, to keep things interesting and to give you some players to cast your eye over, here are five players I think we’ll be seeing in the Premier League in the not too distant future.
1. Andrés Guardado; Mexico.
Currently plying his trade in La Liga with Deportivo La Coruña, the Mexican winger is a player who I have admired for some time now and though Deportivo are certainly no minnows, I don’t think it will be too long before a bigger club comes calling. The 23 year old has already made no less than 57 appearances for Mexico and this is his second World Cup for El Tri.
Guardado is primarily a left winger, with great skill teamed with pace and vision making him a threat to opposition full backs. However, he is not your typical flair player and is not afraid to put in the hard yards defensively, and has even been asked to operate more as a wing back on occasion. I believe he could also make the move infield if asked, to play as a central playmaker, due to his impressive composure on the ball.
While I don’t get to see much La Liga football, I have been very impressed with Guardado on the occasions I have seen him play, he rarely gives the ball away and his threat from open play is complimented by his set piece expertise. And it was Guardado’s introduction that gave Mexico more of a cutting edge in their opening World Cup game against South Africa; he provided more fluidity to their passing and it was his cross that found Marquez for their equalising goal.
He’s the sort of player who would be at home in most Premier League sides, especially as he is unlikely to be too fazed by the physical nature of the league, and certainly my club Everton would love a player of his pace and creativity to give us an extra dimension out wide. However, Deportivo are well aware they have a big talent on their hands and would certainly not let him go cheap. If he continues to inspire Mexico though, some of the Premier League’s big spenders could well come calling.
2. Michael Bradley; USA.
The 22 year old USA midfielder caught my eye in the rather dull and extremely frustrating game against England, and though I’ve seen little of him before now, I think he could follow in the footsteps of the likes of Dempsey, McBride and Donovan in showing the Premier League that Americans really can play football, even if he will probably insist on calling it ‘soccer’.
The son of the US coach Bob Bradley, there can be no suggestion that he is there only because his Daddy picks the team, as he showed against England that he is a key part of the USA midfield. Played in a slightly withdrawn role where he was able to help counteract the attacking intent of Gerrard – and Rooney, as he increasingly dropped deeper as the game progressed – with a series of well timed tackles and interventions.
Clearly able to read the game well, Bradley also demonstrated an eye for a pass on occasion, and while the game wasn’t exactly free flowing and only Landon Donovan showed any real creative flair, Bradley looked composed on the ball and played to the US system perfectly, ultimately frustrating England. He should also relish the Premier League’s no nonsense physicality, a tenacious player who describes himself as “aggressive and committed”.
Currently playing for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga, the 22 year old has plenty of potential and with the US causing such a stir around England with their resilient display, I would be surprised if he hasn’t drawn some admiring glances. While unlikely to be fashionable enough to tempt the so called ‘big four’ just yet, I could see him joining a mid-table side chasing Europe, perhaps even joining his US teammate Dempsey at Fulham.
3. Ángel Di Maria; Argentina.
If you’re reading this blog, I would be surprised if you hadn’t heard of Di Maria already, and so to an extent, it feels a little foolish to include him. However, if there is one player at the World Cup who is almost guaranteed to be moving on to bigger and better things this summer, the Argentinean wing wizard is that player. After a phenomenal season with Benfica, the World Cup will simply determine just how large a transfer fee his signature will command.
I was fortunate enough to see him play in the Europa League a few times in the season just passed, but unfortunately, two of those occasions saw him terrorise my beloved Everton as Benfica hammered us twice. While on the first occasion he was playing against Seamus Coleman – a right back making his European debut at left back – his performances were incredibly impressive and confirmed what I had long been told: this kid is special.
His lightning pace and dribbling ability is probably his most effective weapon, and what has really impressed me is that despite operating at such explosive speed, Di Maria never seems to look in danger of losing control of the ball. He can go past opponents like they aren’t there, and with a fantastic footballing brain and good delivery also part of the package, he can be a devastating player.
Chelsea have been linked with the Argentinean already, along with the likes of Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, and despite having a few seasons left on his contract it seems only a matter of time until the release clause of €40 million is met, and he’s a player I would love to see grace the Premier League, though he may take a while to adapt to the greater physical nature of the game here.
4. Winston Reid; New Zealand.
When Reid was interviewed after scoring the dramatic late equaliser that gave New Zealand their first ever World Cup point against Slovakia, you could tell that he wasn’t your typical Kiwi. That’s to say, he spoke with a heavily Danish accent, but his clear talent also marks him out to an extent. No offense to the All Whites, but while most of the players in the squad are technically limited, Reid looks set to follow in captain Ryan Nelsen’s footsteps.
Having lived in Denmark since he was ten years old and progressing through the academy at FC Midtjylland (alongside Simon Kjaer, a more obvious choice who could have made this list), the club for whom he still plays, as well as representing Denmark at U19, U20 and U21 level, one could be forgiven for wondering just what Reid is doing turning out in the All White of New Zealand.
Apparently overlooked by the Danish side, he chose to make himself available for selection by Ricki Herbert once the New Zealand team qualified for South Africa, and they welcomed him with open arms. The Auckland born central defender added much needed quality to their ranks, and with his versatility also allowing him to play at right-back – the Kiwis’ problem position – Reid has quickly commanded a place in the starting line up.
Scoring his first international goal for New Zealand against Slovakia will no doubt draw the headlines, but he has also shown in his four appearances that he could have what it takes to play at the top level. The odd mistakes still creep in, but with his club form having apparently attracted rumours of interest from Serie A in the past, Nelsen’s Blackburn or other Premier League clubs may think about taking a closer look.
5. Marko Marin; Germany.
The German side that has drawn plaudits from all quarters for the bombastic 4-0 victory over Australia featured a host of young talent; Bayern’s Thomas Müller, Stuttgart’s Sami Khedira and Werder Bremen’s Mesut Özil in particular drew the eye, and could easily feature on this list, but it is substitute Marko Marin who I will focus on.
Another winger – the world seems to be full of exciting wingers at the moment – Marin plays alongside Özil at Werder Bremen, where in the past season the two of them have really stepped up a level and helped the German side fill the sizeable gap left by the departure of the Brazilian playmaker Diego. Fleet footed and intelligent, he uses the ball with typical German efficiency but also a good deal of flair and excitement.
And with his teammates Özil currently grabbing all the headlines in South Africa, it seems that Marin might be a more attainable transfer target for Premier League clubs. However, Werder Bremen are an ambitious club themselves and if – as seems likely – Özil is to be prised away from them this summer, they will not let Marin leave without a fight, especially having only signed him last summer.
Perhaps one for a bit further down the line then, the 21 year old could well benefit from some stability and consistent high level football with Bremen, but I anticipate that someday the Premier League will come calling. Some Everton fan sites reported earlier this year that a deal for Marin was in place, rumours that seem groundless, but he is a player who could make a splash in the Premier League and I don’t think the Bundesliga will contain him forever.
There we have it then, five players to watch at the World Cup who could well be gracing the Premier League in the future. Would you want your club to sign any of these players? There are many more potential Premier League signings in South Africa too, some of whom I’ve mentioned, many I have not – are there any out there that you desperately want to see signed up? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Written by Adam Howard, founder of They Think It's All Over... Adam helps write articles for SoccerPro.com the best place to buy the new Adidas Adizeros or Adidas Predators.
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