The 20 Best Transfer Moves on the Back of World Cup Performances

Laura Greene@@Greene_LFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

The 20 Best Transfer Moves on the Back of World Cup Performances

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    Michael Probst/Associated Press

    If you are in possession of a) an appetite for a month-long display of international football and b) a penchant for all things transfer-related, this summer will be a great time to be a football fan.

    Not only does the World Cup give us goals, drama, upset and (if you are an England fan) a sense of hopeless optimism, but it is also the biggest shop window in football—with many a move engineered on the back of solid displays on its stage.

    But which players have turned their World Cup performances into the best transfers at club level? Over the next 20 slides, you'll find out.

    We have focused our findings on moves made between USA 1994 and South Africa 2010. The slides are grouped in chronological order, and within each World Cup year, we tell you who stood out as the best.

    We chose players based on a number of factors, including who had the biggest impacts at their new clubs, who went on to have the most successful post-World Cup careers and who became cult heroes with their new sides.

    Agree with the choices? Disagree? Let us know below.


Philippe Albert, Belgium

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1994

    From: Anderlecht

    To: Newcastle United

    He may not be a World Cup winner or a star name, but Philippe Albert became a cult hero during his time at Newcastle United.

    The Belgian international's move to the English top flight came on the back of his performances at the 1994 World Cup. In two group-stage ties against the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia, the defender played every minute of every game, scoring once. In the final round of 16, Albert notched another goal against Germany, only to lose 3-2.

    Seen as a classy, exciting foreign import back then, Albert was a ball-playing defender in an era when not many of his kind existed in the Premier League.

    In 96 league appearances for Newcastle, Albert scored eight goals—with none as memorable as this, scored against Manchester United on October 20, 1996. 

Marc-Vivien Foe, Cameroon

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    Eric Draper/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 1994

    From: Canon Yaounde

    To: RSC Lens

    Unlike Italia '90, the 1994 World Cup did not yield good results for Cameroon. Winless in each of their three games in the group stage—with 11 goals conceded and only three scored—it's fair to say it wasn't a vintage year for the Indomitable Lions.

    However, one player still managed to attract attention from overseas: World Cup debutant Marc-Vivien Foe.

    His move to France from Cameroon side Canon Yaounde saw Lens achieve their first-ever French league title after he'd spent four years at the club. Other career moves included West Ham United and Lyon—where he won the French League Cup and Lyon's first Ligue 1 title in 2002.

    Loved at each side he joined, a loan spell at Manchester City in 2002/03 was to be Foe's final stop before he tragically passed away in June 2003 during a Confederations Cup semi-final for Cameroon against Colombia. 

Dan Petrescu, Romania

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1994

    From: Genoa

    To: Sheffield Wednesday

    Like his compatriot Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu had won countless domestic titles in Romania with Steaua Bucharest before the 1994 World Cup in the USA.

    With a team that included Ilie Dumitrescu, Florin Raducioiu and Hagi, it was an exciting time for the Romanian national, who put away the only goal of the game in beating the U.S. tournament hosts 1-0 on June 26.

    After emerging from Group A as winners, Romania went on to beat Argentina in the round of 16 before being knocked out by Sweden in a quarter-final penalty shootout.

    Petrescu had his penalty saved in the shootout that sent Anghel Iordanescu's side out of the tournament, but his stylish play as a specialist wing-back had already been spotted by Sheffield Wednesday, who were in the Premiership at the time.

    After spending one and-a-half seasons with the Owls, Petrescu got a move to Chelsea for a fee in the region of £2.3 million. Described on Chelsea's official website as a player that then-Blues manager Glenn Hoddle "had been trying to buy for over a year," Petrescu went on to win the FA Cup, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup and the UEFA Super Cup with Chelsea, becoming the first overseas player to reach 100 appearances for the club in the process. 


Gheorghe Hagi, Romania

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    Douglas C Pizac/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 1994

    From: Brescia

    To: Barcelona

    After experiencing relegation and subsequent promotion in Italy with Brescia, Hagi went into his second World Cup, USA '94, at the peak of his game. After a magnificent tournament in which he scored three goals—including that strike against Colombia—he joined FC Barcelona, who were managed at the time by Johan Cruyff.

    It was at USA '94 that Hagi cemented his place as one of the stars of world football and one of the best No. 10s of all time. After two years with Barcelona, he went on to join Galatasaray, where he won a heap of silverware and appeared in one more World Cup before hanging up his boots in 2001. 

Cafu, Brazil

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    Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1994

    From: Sao Paulo

    To: Real Zaragoza

    Cafu went to USA '94 as a squad player and returned to Brazil as a bona fide World Cup winner, having come on as a substitute for Jorginho in the July 17 final against Italy.

    After impressing for his national side, the attacking full-back got a move from boyhood club Sao Paulo to La Liga side Real Zaragoza.

    It was a huge coup for Los Blanquillos, who were inheriting the South American Footballer of the Year. Cafu spent just one season in Spain, where he won the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup, before returning to Brazil with Juventude and, later, Palmeiras. 

    A switch back to Europe happened in 1997, when the Brazilian joined Roma. But his best years were to come with AC Milan, where he won numerous titles between 2003-2008. 

    Cafu has played in three World Cup Finals for Brazil, winning two. He remains one of the best marauding full-backs of all time.

    Cafu: The best World Cup signing of 1994.

Hidetoshi Nakata, Japan

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1998

    From: Bellmare Hiratsuka

    To: Perugia

    An exciting young talent with spiky orange hair, Hidetoshi Nakata was one of the most memorable players of France '98.

    Japan suffered three successive defeats in the tournament, against Argentina, Croatia and Jamaica, but Nakata, playing in his first World Cup, managed to stand out as one of his country's top performers.

    Spotted by Perugia, he was swiftly signed by the Serie A side, where he had an instant impact—scoring 10 goals in 33 games. As Adam Szreter wrote in The Guardian, "His spell at Perugia has brought thousands of Japanese tourists to the Umbrian city, their games have been televised live in Japan and some 50,000 Perugia shirts have been sold in his home country."

    After one-and-a-half seasons at the Stadio Renato Curi, Nakata moved to Roma, where he won Serie A in 2001. A successful spell at Parma followed, where Nakata won the Copa Italia. After a loan spell at Bologna, Nakata joined Fiorentina in 2004 before ending his playing days on loan with Bolton Wanderers.

    Now retired, Nakata will always be seen as one of the best Japanese players of all time.

Marcelo Salas, Chile

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1998

    From: River Plate

    To: Lazio

    Marcelo Salas kicked off his appearance in the 1998 World Cup with a brace scored against Italy in a 2-2 draw. The Chilean followed that up with a goal scored against Austria in Group B and a goal scored against Brazil in a 4-1 defeat in the round of 16.

    It was an impressive World Cup showing for the striker, who had previously put away bags of goals for River Plate and, before that, Universidad de Chile.

    After signing for Lazio on July 1, 1998, Salas was pivotal in helping I Biancocelesti win the UEFA Cup Winner's Cup in 1998/99 and become Serie A and Coppa Italia champions in 1999/2000.

    When he was sold to Juventus in 2001, Salas had scored 45 goals in 105 appearances for Lazio, per Transfermarkt.

Dejan Stankovic, Yugoslavia/Serbia

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 1998

    From: Red Star Belgrade

    To: Lazio

    Dejan Stankovic made his first World Cup appearance at France '98 when he was 19 years old. He was representing the former Yugoslavia, who, finishing second in Group A, went on to be knocked out by the Netherlands in the round of 16.

    Sharing attacking duties in a side that could boast the likes of Savo Milosevic, Dejan Savicevic, Predrag Mijatovic and Darko Kovacevic, the Red Star Belgrade youngster was in good company.

    Upon returning from the 1998 tournament, Stankovic was snapped up by Lazio. In a side boasting the talents of Diego Simeone, Pavel Nedved and Juan Sebastian Veron, among others, he managed to force his way into the starting line-up, where he made 36 appearances across Serie A and the Cup Winner's Cup.

    In addition to winning the Cup Winner's Cup, Stankovic won the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia in his second season at the Stadio Olimpico. After making just under 200 appearances for Lazio, the Belgrade-born midfielder went on to big things with Inter Milan between 2004—2013. 

    Stankovic: The best World Cup signing of 1998.


Gilberto Silva, Brazil

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2002

    From: Atletico Mineiro

    To: Arsenal

    Gilberto Silva's first appearance at a World Cup came in 2002, when the tournament was hosted in South Korea and Japan. 

    It's fair to say that things worked out well for the 25-year-old, who returned to Brazil as a World Cup winner, having played every minute of every game for Luiz Felipe Scolari's team.

    It wasn't meant to be that way—Gilberto was brought along as a squad player, but when team captain Emerson was ruled out due to injury, as reported by Dominic Fifield in The Guardian, the Atletico Mineiro midfielder was there to take his place. 

    By July, Gilberto swapped Galo for the Gunners, telling the Daily Mail, "I am delighted to be joining Arsenal. They are the champions of England and have a squad full of world-class international footballers. I am really looking forward to living to London and playing for one of the best teams in Europe."

    He made an instant impact by scoring the winner in his Arsenal debut in the Community Shield. During his six years in North London, Gilberto was made vice-captain. He also won the Premier League and two FA Cups, scored the fastest-ever goal in Champions League, and was a member of the famous "Invincibles" side that managed to go unbeaten for an entire season.

    After more than 200 appearances for Arsene Wenger's team, Gilberto Silva signed for Panathinaikos in 2011, where he went on to win the Super League and the Greek Cup. In January 2013, he returned to his former home, Atletico Mineiro.

    Gilberto Silva: The best World Cup signing of 2002.

Javier Mascherano, Argentina

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    Ben Radford/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2006

    From: Corinthians

    To: West Ham United

    "West Ham have pulled off a major coup by signing Argentina World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano," read a BBC Sport article in the summer of 2006.

    It was definitely a coup for the London club, who managed to snatch two of Argentina's most exciting young talents from under the noses of a long line of admirers across Europe.

    Things didn't go entirely as planned, however, as West Ham struggled and went on an eight-game winless streak after the duo joined.

    In Mascherano's case, his West Ham move was a success, as it paved the way for him to go to Liverpool, whom he joined on loan six months after arriving at the Boleyn Ground. At Anfield, he went straight into the team and into the Reds' Champions League squad, where he enjoyed a solid two-and-a-half years before signing for Barcelona in 2010.

    His trophy cabinet has been well-stocked ever since.

Per Mertesacker, Germany

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    FRANK AUGSTEIN/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2006

    From: Hannover 96

    To: Werder Bremen 

    Germany 2006 was Per Mertesacker's debut in the World Cup. The then-21-year-old played every minute of every game in the tournament (apart from the third-place play-off) while suffering from a leg injury that later required surgery.

    Jurgen Klinsmann's side made it as far as the semi-finals in 2006, and the centre-back's excellent displays alongside Christoph Metzelder made Werder Bremen sit up and take notice.

    After coming through the ranks at Hannover, the defender signed for Bremen on August 8, 2006. He consistently challenged for honours both domestically and on the European scene, winning the DFB Pokal and finishing as a runner-up in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Cup before getting a switch to Arsenal in 2011.

    He has since been a stalwart in defence for both Germany and the Gunners. 

Carlos Tevez, Argentina

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    Michael Steele/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2006

    From: Corinthians

    To: West Ham United

    At 22, Carlos Tevez joined West Ham on the back of his displays for Corinthians and Argentina at Germany '06. 

    Despite a winless streak of eight games and troubles concerning "third party ownership," detailed here by David Conn in The Guardian, Tevez actually went on to have a reasonably good season.

    He scored seven goals as the Hammers battled relegation, including the goal that kept them up—which earned him the fans' title of Hammer of the Year. 

    Tevez went on to big things with Manchester United, Manchester City and, currently, Juventus. But the goal he scored for West Ham on May 13, 2007 will never be forgotten in East London.  


Carlos Salcido, Mexico

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2006

    From: Guadalajara

    To: PSV Eindhoven 

    In his first World Cup for Mexico, Carlos Salcido made the left-back position his own—playing every minute of every game in Group D and a full 90 minutes in the group of 16, where El Tri were knocked out by Argentina.

    As seen on Sky Sports at the time, Salcido impressed PSV Eindhoven, who signed him up on July 1, 2006.

    The defender soon established himself in the Eredivisie, making nine Champions League and 33 league appearances and winning the Dutch title in his first term at the club. The next season, PSV won the Eredivisie again, with Salcido a regular in the side.

    Following the 2010 World Cup, he signed for Fulham. In 2011, he won the CONCACAF Gold Cup with Mexico, and in 2012, Salcido added Olympic gold to his collection at the London Games. 

    Now 34, Salcido will likely be playing in his last World Cup after making Miguel Herrera's 23-man squad for Brazil 2014.

    Carlos Salcido: The best World Cup signing of 2006.

Asamoah Gyan, Ghana

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Rennes

    To: Sunderland

    Many neutrals were willing Ghana to win in their 2010 quarter-final clash against Uruguay. Asamoah Gyan had scored three goals en route to their showdown against Los Charruas in Johannesburg and had been named Man of the Match in group games against Serbia and Australia.

    The Ghanaian international famously missed a penalty in the closing stages of the quarter-final after Uruguay's Luis Suarez handled the ball on the line.

    Despite missing the spot-kick, the forward was one of the players of the tournament and is, without doubt, one of Ghana's best World Cup players of all time.

    When it was announced that Gyan would be joining Sunderland on the back of his performances in South Africa, it looked like an exciting acquisition for the Black Cats.

    At times, it was. Gyan put away 11 goals and registered five assists during his time with the club. However, an acrimonious split from the club in 2011 cut short his time at the Stadium of Light. 

    While not on the same level as the other players in this slideshow in terms of what he achieved at Sunderland, for a fleeting moment, it looked like an excellent signing to follow a World Cup. 

Nicolas Otamendi, Argentina

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Velez Sarsfield 

    To: Porto

    Fast-tracked into the Argentina senior national team by Diego Maradona, Nicolas Otamendi started turning heads when he made his first World Cup appearances at South Africa four years ago.

    With 10 Argentina caps to his name, he signed for Porto in August 2010 as part of a five-year contract worth €4 million, per

    His first season in Portugal could not have gone much better. The young defender made 32 appearances (in all competitions), winning the Primeira Liga title, the Portuguese Cup and the Europa League. Otamendi followed that up with another two successive Portuguese league titles.

    Earlier this year, the 26-year-old was sold to La Liga side Valencia in a deal said to be in the region of €12 million. He was subsequently loaned out to Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro, per ESPN FC.

Edinson Cavani, Uruguay

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    Schalk van Zuydam/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Palermo

    To: Napoli

    Back in 2010, Palermo striker Edinson Cavani travelled to South Africa with Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay side to take his first bow in the World Cup.

    Teammate Diego Forlan—the tournament's top scorer—stole all the headlines, but Cavani, who notched a goal against Germany en route to finishing in fourth place, was still turning heads in Europe. As reported by ESPN FC:

    Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini has confirmed that striker Edinson Cavani will join Napoli if he can agree personal terms with the club. 

    Cavani had been linked with Tottenham after performing superbly in Uruguay's run to the World Cup semi-finals but will now join Palermo's Serie A rivals in time for the new Italian season.

    The striker made an impressive start to his career at the San Paolo, scoring twice on his Napoli debut and ending the season with 26 goals.

    In total, Cavani registered 104 goals in 138 games in Naples, per Transfermarkt, before putting pen to paper with Paris Saint-Germain last summer in a deal worth £55.6 million.

Sami Khedira, Germany

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    Gero Breloer/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Stuttgart

    To: Real Madrid

    South Africa 2010 was Sami Khedira's first World Cup experience. Less than a year after captaining Germany's U21 side to glory in the UEFA European Championships in 2009, he played in every game for Joachim Low on the biggest stage as Germany progressed to the semi-finals.

    Khedira, formerly of Stuttgart, scored the decisive goal in the 3-2 win against Uruguay, which secured third place for his team. As ESPN FC wrote following the tournament, "That goal and his performances in South Africa convinced Real [Madrid] coach Jose Mourinho to make him one of his top summer targets and Khedira will take the next step in his career in the Primera Division next season."

    It was a great move by Mourinho, as he signed a player who has since made 144 appearances for Madrid, per Transfermarkt, and has won the Copa del Rey, La Liga, the Spanish Super Cup and the Champions League in his time at the Bernabeu. 

Alexis Sanchez, Chile

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Udinese

    To: Barcelona

    Alexis Sanchez made his debut appearance in the World Cup Finals in 2010. On the back of a successful season in Serie A with Udinese, the Chilean impressed for La Roja as they beat Honduras 1-0 in the Group H opener.

    Sanchez, who had scored four times in his nation's qualifiers for the 2010 tournament, appeared in each of his nation's games before their exit in the round of 16 exit against Brazil.

    On July 21, it was announced that he had been signed by Barcelona, per BBC Sport

    Since putting pen to paper at the Nou Camp, Sanchez has won La Liga, two Super Cups and the Copa del Rey. He has racked up 141 appearances for Barca, scoring 47 goals in his four years at the club, per Transfermarkt.

Ramires, Brazil

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Benfica

    To: Chelsea

    After spending a Primeira Liga-winning season with Benfica, it was Ramires' performances for Brazil at the 2010 World Cup that made Chelsea sit up and take notice.

    As reported by David Hytner in The Guardian:

    Chelsea have agreed a fee of £18m (€22m) with Benfica to buy the Brazil midfielder Ramires and they intend to push him through a medical at the club before confirming his signing by the end of the week.

    Ramires appeared for Brazil at the World Cup finals in South Africa, catching the eye in the last-16 victory over Chile, and he is rated as one the continent's most promising young players.

    It has turned out to be a very successful buy. In almost 200 appearances (in all competitions) for Chelsea, the Brazil international has won the FA Cup, the Europa League and the Champions League, and he was named Chelsea's Player of the Year in 2011/12.

Mesut Ozil, Germany

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    World Cup Year: 2010

    From: Werder Bremen

    To: Real Madrid

    In the 2010 World Cup, at the age of just 21, Mesut Ozil emerged as one of the most exciting young players in international football.

    The German international had already been impressing in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen, but after starting every match for Joachim Low's side as Germany marched into the semi-finals, it was clear that a new star had been born.

    As Kevin McCarra wrote in The Guardian:

    No matter what lies ahead Mesut Ozil has already left memories that will become part of this World Cup's identity. That is quite an impact from a 21-year-old making his first appearance at the tournament. The German presided over the slick 4-0 destruction of Australia. Everyone had heard of the victors' escape from its long dependence on veterans, but the freshness was the gift of Ozil.

    The element of surprise was resounding since few supposed the midfielder was about to reveal such art and intelligence. After all, he did not previously have a place in the star culture that would have been his already if he were with Bayern Munich instead of Werder Bremen.

    Europe's clubs took note, and by August, Ozil had signed a deal with Real Madrid. 

    Copa del Rey, La Liga and Spanish Super Cup titles were to follow, and Ozil racked up 27 goals and 81 assists in his 159 games for the club, per Transfermarkt.

    In summer 2013, Ozil became Arsenal's record signing, putting pen to paper in a £42.5 million deal.

    Ozil: The best World Cup signing of 2010.