Ranking the 11 Greatest Signings on the Back of World Cup Performances

Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2014

Ranking the 11 Greatest Signings on the Back of World Cup Performances

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    Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

    The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will, as ever, see impressive performances from relatively unknown players—players will be thrust into the eyes of the world and suddenly become household names.

    Some of those watching eyes will be football scouts and managers, eager to make a signing and impressed by what they've seen.

    Frequently we see players impress at a World Cup and earn themselves a move based upon their performances at the tournament.

    It's a risky strategy, just ask Gerard Houllier, who was Liverpool boss in 2002. He'd signed El Hadji Diouf prior to the Senegal forward impressing at the tournament, and he then went out and signed midfielder Salif Diao immediately after. Proof, then, that not all signings work out based on World Cup performances.

    More recently we've seen Real Madrid in particular make big name signings post World Cup. They signed Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, and they added German duo Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil in 2010.

    Here, we rank the 11 greatest signings that were made based upon their World Cup performances.

    The criteria used for ranking is based upon:

    • how impressive the player performed at that World Cup
    • how obscure the player was prior to the tournament—and the club they played at
    • how big the club and transfer fee was for the player
    • how successful their move was in the long-term

    Have a read and let us know your choices in the comments.

11. Philippe Albert (Newcastle, 1994)

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    Roberto Pfeil/Associated Press

    After impressing at USA '94 with Belgium, Philippe Albert earned a £2.6 million move to England with Newcastle United.

    Albert was a key part of the Belgium squad that was eventually knocked out by Germany in the second round of the tournament.

    Signed from Anderlecht, he went on to become a cult idol at Newcastle, making over 100 appearances and scoring that famous chipped goal against Manchester United in a 5-0 win.

10. Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid, 2010)

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    Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

    Although not an unknown player in 2010, Angel Di Maria's performances for Argentina at the World Cup in South Africa saw him sign for Spanish giants Real Madrid during the tournament itself.

    Madrid announced the signing in late June, arriving from Portuguese side Benfica for an initial €25 million. 

    The skilful midfielder is now a key member of Real's side and has amassed over 100 appearances and won five trophies in his four years at the club so far. In that time he's assisted an incredible 62 goals in La Liga!

9. Gilberto Silva (Arsenal, 2002)

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    Impressing for Brazil at the 2002 World Cup, combative midfielder Gilberto Silva earned a move to the Premier League to join Arsenal.

    Such was Gilberto's relative obscurity, signed from Atletico Mineiro, that Arsenal had complications obtaining a work permit for the Brazilian. He eventually signed for £4.5 million and went on to make over 200 appearances in four years at the London club, and he was part of the "Invincibles" team in 2004.

8. Ricky Villa (Tottenham, 1978)

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Part of Argentina's World Cup-winning squad in 1978, Ricky Villa was snapped up by Tottenham in a wildly unexpected transfer—joining along with Ossie Ardiles (more on him later).

    Villa only made two second-half appearances at the World Cup, but nonetheless, this was a great signing for Spurs and Villa contributed to the club's huge success when they won the FA Cup in 1981 and 1982.

    Villa's winning goal in the 1981 FA Cup final replay against Man City was voted Wembley's goal of the century in 2001.

7. Zbigniew Boniek (Juventus, 1982)

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    Boniek pictured in his Roma days.
    Boniek pictured in his Roma days.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Polish forward Zbigniew Boniek earned himself an incredible move to Italian football after impressing for his country at the World Cup in 1982 in Spain—where Poland finished third.

    Boniek scored a hat-trick in his country's opening game and finished the tournament with four goals, level with Zico.

    He signed for Juventus from Widzew Lodz, later joining Roma. At Juve he was part of the team that won the 1984 UEFA Cup and 1985 European Cup.

    Boniek is listed on FIFA's best 100 players, as chosen by Pele.

6. Marcelo Salas (Lazio, 1998)

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Four goals in four matches at France '98 earned Chilean forward Marcelo Salas a big money move to Europe with Lazio.

    Salas signed for £12 million and went on to win six trophies with Lazio before moving to Juventus in 2001.

5. Roberto Baggio (Juventus, 1990)

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Such were the quality of Roberto Baggio's performances at Italia '90, where he scored twice for his country, Juventus paid Fiorentina a then world record fee for the forward following the tournament.

    Fiorentina fans rioted after the £8 million move, with Baggio inheriting the No. 10 jersey from Michel Platini.

    One of the game's greatest ever players, Baggio led Italy to the World Cup final in 1994, scoring five goals en route. He did, however, infamously miss the crucial penalty against Brazil in the final to hand the Brazilians their fourth World Cup.

4. Ali Daei (Bayern Munich, 1998)

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Ali Daei's performances for Iran at France '98 earned him an incredible move to European giants Bayern Munich from German lower league side Arminia Bielefeld.

    Daei, Iran's greatest ever player, is the world's all-time leading goalscorer for a national team, with 109 goals in 149 appearances.

3. Ossie Ardiles (Tottenham, 1978)

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Argentinian midfielder Ossie Ardiles made a sensational move to England to play for Tottenham after the 1978 World Cup.

    Ardiles made over 300 appearances for the London side, and he was a key part of the team which won the FA Cup twice and the UEFA Cup in 1984.

    He later managed the club from 1993 to 1994, but that wasn't quite as successful a move!

2. Javier Mascherano & Carlos Tevez (West Ham, 2006)

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    Christopher Lee/Getty Images

    Similar to the coup of Tottenham signing two Argentinians in 1978, West Ham somehow signed Argentinian duo Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano following World Cup 2006.

    A statement read:

    West Ham United are delighted to announce the double signing of Argentinian World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano from Brazilian club Corinthians.

    The pair have been signed for an undisclosed fee and put pen-to-paper on permanent contracts with the club this afternoon. All other aspects of the transfers will remain confidential and undisclosed.

    Those "aspects of the transfers" didn't remain confidential, though, with West Ham found guilty of breaching Premier League rules regarding third party agreements.

    Tevez's goal on the final day of the season eventually saved the Hammers from relegation, but they were forced to pay relegated Sheffield United £18.1 million compensation in 2009 (as per The Daily Mail).

    Both players left the club permanently the following summer, Tevez to Manchester United and Mascherano to Liverpool.

1. Gheorge Hagi (Real Madrid 1990 & Barcelona 1994)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Top of the list is Romanian forward Gheorge Hagi—purely for the fact he did it twice, and to two of the biggest teams in the world!

    His performances at Italia '90 earned him a move from Steaua Bucharest to Real Madrid, while USA '94 saw him join Barcelona from Brescia, whom Real had sold him to in 1992.

    Hagi scored three goals at USA '94, inspiring Romania to the quarter-final where they narrowly lost out on penalties to Sweden.

    Named Romanian player of the year an incredible seven times, Hagi is on the rare list of players to have played for both of Spain's biggest clubs.