Ranking the Manchester City Players on Their Likely World Cup Impact
There were days, not that long ago, when Manchester City would send very few players to a World Cup. Beyond the odd stalwart Irish defender, they had little to offer in the way of international stars.
Now, of course, there's an array of world-class talent at City and at this summer's World Cup in Brazil no fewer than 13 of their players could well be gracing the event.
Here, we take a look at the 13 players most likely to travel from Manchester to Rio and assess the impact they may have on the tournament. Players are ranked on the basis of their ability to make an impact in terms of performance but also the likelihood of their country being successful.
13. James Milner
It's fair to say James Milner is held in far higher regard by the City fans than those who follow England. While he is appreciated at club level for his work ethic and adaptability, the England fans see him as a symbol of mediocrity, often taking to various phone-ins and social media channels to pour scorn on the idea he is an international level player. It's a strange, almost unfathomable, gap in opinion.
Milner is well worth his place in the England squad. He's technically sound, can play in a number of positions and works harder without the ball than most.
With England unlikely to win, Milner not a guaranteed starter and certainly not a player who catches the eye with flair, he ranks 13th in our list of City players set to make a World Cup impact.
12. Gael Clichy
After a season in which he's struggled for form, Gael Clichy may well be looking forward to an opportunity to play for his country. A new environment and new challenge is exactly what he needs and what bigger challenge than playing in the greatest sporting event in the world.
France are by no means the most likely side to emerge victorious, but they have some excellent players, and Clichy, who when fit and focused is an excellent left-back capable of causing all sorts of problems going forward, could shine.
A strong end to the season for City is needed first, though, to help him go to Brazil with more confidence than he currently has.
11. Joe Hart
After being dropped in October following a series of high-profile and costly errors, Joe Hart goes to the World Cup in good spirits after reversing the poor form that threatened his position as City's No. 1. Since his return to the side in December, he's been much improved, the confidence now flowing again.
He's a certain starter for England given his improvement and the lack of top-class competition for his place.
The nagging feeling that England simply aren't good enough to make an impression on the tournament pervades, though, and Hart's impact, therefore, will be reduced.
10. Alvaro Negredo
If this list had been compiled in the first half of the season, it's very likely Alvaro Negredo would have featured much higher up, but after a dramatic collapse in performance level, the Spaniard looks low on confidence, particularly in front of goal, and he may even have a fight on his hands to make the Spain squad.
At the beginning of the season, he looked unplayable. Seamless adaption to the Premier League, Champions League hat-trick, a blossoming partnership with Sergio Aguero—everything was going right for The Beast.
But since City's trip to West Ham in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final back in January, he's been a different player.
Spain are arguably the best current international side, and they have every chance of winning the tournament and with great players around him and a change of environment he could do well, but he will be concerned given his current struggles.
9. Edin Dzeko
A City striker who has improved his form as the season has progressed is Edin Dzeko, Bosnia's legendary striker who leads his nation into their first ever World Cup.
There are some concerns over Bosnia's form, particularly after their defeat to Egypt in March, but the sheer excitement surrounding their involvement can be harnessed and used to their advantage. They won't win it, of course, but they will be desperate to prove they aren't there simply to make up the numbers.
8. Pablo Zabaleta
Argentina go to Brazil as one of the best equipped to win the whole thing, and Pablo Zabaleta is a sure-fire starter after another remarkable season at City.
Zabaleta has, in the last two seasons particularly, established himself as one of the best and most trusted right-backs in Europe, with his defensive consistency and attacking game clear for all to see. He goes into the tournament as one of the stand-out defenders, and his commitment and professionalism will ensure he doesn't fail to impress.
7. Vincent Kompany
Many people's dark horses for the World Cup are Belgium. They have an array of Premier League talent, including Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, and they are led by City captain Vincent Kompany. They feel this is their time, their Golden Generation ready to make an impact.
The hype surrounding Belgium may have reached ridiculous levels, but there's no doubting they can have more of a say than they've had before.
Kompany is arguably the finest centre-back in world football right now, and he will almost certainly make an impression, regardless of his side's chances.
6. Samir Nasri
After a dreadful 2012-13, the turnaround in Samir Nasri's career this season has been exceptional. Rarely has a player so sharply reversed their form in such a short space of time, with the freedom he's given to express himself in Manuel Pellegrini's team a key factor in his obvious improvement.
His confidence is sky high, and while Nasri has been mysteriously left out of the last two France squads, manager Didier Deschamps will surely be unable to overlook the former Arsenal man's scintillating form this season when he selects his squad for Brazil. Expect big things from him this summer.
5. Jesus Navas
After a slow first month or so at City, Jesus Navas has emerged as a key player this season. His pace is incredible, and his willingness to run at defenders is a constant threat. It seems almost certain he will be in the Spain squad that travels to Brazil.
One of Navas' best weapons is his ability to come on as a substitute and influence a game. He seems to make an impact regardless of how long he is given to prove himself. We saw his ability to change matches for Spain at the Confederations Cup last summer and he'll no doubt do it again.
4. Yaya Toure
What a season for Yaya Toure. After 22 goals from midfield, he goes to Brazil with the Ivory Coast in the best form of his life.
Although his side are unlikely to be able to win it, Toure arrives as one of the best and most unique midfielders in world football. Capable of changing a game in the blink of eye with a surging run or long-range strike, he has so many weapons that he's difficult to keep quiet for 90 minutes.
He's the main man in the Ivory Coast squad and will be given licence to attack. He's the current African Footballer of the Year and carries the weight of expectation on his shoulders. He can handle it, though.
Fernandinho has struggled to establish himself at international level, making just six appearances for Brazil so far. However, after a wonderful debut season in the Premier League with City, he will surely be part of the home nation's squad this summer.
He's been the key to Yaya Toure's goalscoring form. The energy and protection Fernandinho has brought to City's midfield means the Ivorian has been free to concentrate on going forward—22 goals later, and it appears to have been a masterstroke from Manuel Pellegrini.
Fernandinho played in Brazil's recent friendlies and impressed, and his City career goes from strength to strength. He is a player well capable of having an impact, and Brazil, as the home nation, are likely to do well.
2. David Silva
David Silva continues to excel at club and international level. His performances this season have been so good that, despite the talented midfielders Spain have competing for a place, he still looks set to be a vital player for them at the finals.
Since his shift inside into the No. 10 role, Silva has improved still further, influencing City's attacking play like never before. His vision, passing and ability to retain possession make him one of the most valuable players in world football.
1. Sergio Aguero
The City player best equipped to make an impact at the 2014 World Cup is Sergio Aguero. Not only is he a player capable of winning a game in an instant, his team, Argentina, have a squad full of world-class players capable of winning the trophy. His pace causes most defences problems, and his work-rate makes him indispensable.
He's had his fitness issues this year, most worryingly two periods out with a hamstring problem. He's back in full training now, though, and he's set to face Liverpool this weekend. If he can put his fitness troubles behind him, he will go to the World Cup fresh and ready for action.