Since its inception, the World Cup has often been a platform for players to make their mark as an all-time great or to engineer themselves a transfer to one of football’s biggest teams. On the flipside, however, the tournament has also been the place where many a big-name superstar has failed to live up to their potential or failed to fully influence the competition in the way that many would have hoped.
In this feature, we’re going to take a look at five players who had high hopes going into the 2018 World Cup, but who ultimately have disappointed to the point that their price tags have now been affected:
Serbia v Brazil: Group E – 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Going into the World Cup, many saw Adem Ljajic as being pivotal to any success that the Serbia team would have.
The tricky Torino attacker featured in all three of his nation’s matches, although he did start the Switzerland game on the bench. Still, in their final game against Brazil, Ljajic was employed in a creative role behind the powerhouse figure of Aleksandar Mitrovic – the plan being for the flair of Ljajic to help unlock the Brazilian backline.
Sadly for Serbia, Ljajic was a non-entity in that game; much like how he was in the rest of the tournament. He may show glimpses of match-winning quality in Calcio A, but the World Cup again showed him to be frustrating, if not undoubtedly the talented player.
For nearly a decade, FC Bayern’s Manuel Neuer had been regarded as the greatest goalkeeper in the world. Following Germany’s failure to qualify for the World Cup’s knockout stages, the whole team has come under huge scrutiny – and one of those who’s been singled out for particular criticism is 2014 World Cup-winner Neuer.
Far from the dominating presence we’ve come to expect from Neuer, the 32-year-old seemed like a shadow of himself throughout the tournament, not least in the Germans’ final game against South Korea. Clearly, Neuer was at fault for South Korea’s second goal in that game, but even earlier on in that match, he looked unsettled and restless, as illustrated by him fumbling a shot that was hit straight at him.
In recent years, Manchester United’s David De Gea has been seen by some to be the world’s very best goalkeeper, and Manuel Neuer’s World Cup 2018 performances have again highlighted that the veteran German is no longer in the same league as the athletic Spaniard.
The good news for Raheem Sterling is that he has time to turn his World Cup around, with England safely progressing to the knockout stages of the competition. To date though, the Manchester City forward has had a poor tournament by his own high standards, particularly in comparison to his electric form for the Citizens as they romped to the Premier League title in the 2017-18 season.
In England’s opening game against Tunisia, Sterling was unquestionably poor and was guilty of missing several easy chances. Similarly, the 6-1 thrashing of Panama also saw the former Liverpool winger struggle to influence the game despite Gareth Southgate’s men clearly dominating proceedings.
With Real Madrid reportedly keeping tabs on Raheem Sterling, you can’t help but think that Sterling’s disappointing World Cup performances will have an effect on his asking price should Los Blancos come calling.
Nicolas Otamendi who won plenty of plaudits for his performances for Manchester City during their Premier League-winning campaign, but even then, there are those who were often a little unsure of the Argentinian centre-half.
Those critics have had all of the fuel they could ever need during this year’s World Cup. In the first two group games in particular – against Iceland and Croatia – Otamendi was left wanting as the Argentine defensive unit struggled in a way rarely seen by the two-time World Cup winners.
With goalkeeping issues, right midfielder Eduardo Salvio shoehorned in at right back, the relatively inexperienced Nicolas Tagliafico at left back, Otamendi and fellow centre-back Marcos Rojo was looked at to be the rocks holding the Argentina defence steady. While Rojo won favour by scoring the goal that sent Argentina through to the knockout stages of the tournament, Otamendi has had an extremely disappointing World Cup.
Before a ball was even kicked at the World Cup, news outlets were reporting that the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United were looking at signing FC Bayern’s Jerome Boateng.
With over 70 international caps for Germany to his name, plus a whole slew of silverware that includes the 2014 World Cup, the ball-playing centre-half would seem like an ideal signing for most teams. Unfortunately for Boateng, though, his performances at the 2018 World Cup may see those potential suitors looking elsewhere for defensive cover.
Having been part of the German defence that was torn apart by Mexico in the team’s first game of the World Cup, Boateng’s tournament went from bad to worse as he was sent off against Sweden, causing him to be suspended for the nation’s final game in which they were knocked out of the competition after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea.