Transfer Stock Watch for 2018 World Cup's Best and Worst Performers
The FIFA World Cup is the ultimate football stage, a chance to strut your stuff in front of millions of people scattered across the globe. It's a competition that puts the world in a trance; as a player, there is no better opportunity to introduce your talents to those who love the game.
But as impressive as some players were, undoubtedly winning new fans, newfound appreciation and levels of respect, some did the opposite. Several come out the other side of this tournament with their reputations damaged.
Here, B/R takes a post-World Cup stock check, singling out five players who have greatly enhanced their chances of a big summer transfer thanks to their performances in Russia, and five who might well have left themselves in a bigger hole than when they started.
Stock Up: Jo Hyeon-Woo, Daegu and South Korea
"It feels strange that so many people recognise me on the streets," Jo Hyeon-Woo told reporters in South Korea after returning from World Cup duty. "So many fans greeted me on my way to my home in Pohang that I nearly missed my stop."
Jo's rise to fame occurred over the space of three games in Russia. He's the epitome of a World Cup love story. His commanding performances between the sticks for South Korea against Sweden, Mexico and Germany attracted a lot of attention, and it stands to reason he won't last long in the K-League.
His team, Daegu, are second from bottom and have little clout. Even with the World Cup inflating Jo's reputation, it's difficult to see him costing that much if a bigger fish comes calling.
Stock Down: Santiago Arias, PSV Eindhoven and Colombia
Last summer, Santiago Arias seemed fairly close to a Premier League move, with Wales Online's Andrew Gwilym reporting Swansea City's interest in the player. It never materialised, but his prospects remained bright at 25 years of age and heading into a World Cup year.
But while many players enhanced their chances of a big move in Russia, Arias wasn't one of them. He might still get a move in the coming weeks as he remains a talented full-back, but it won't be down to anything he did in June and July.
Part of a chaotic four-game cycle with Colombia, he began the tournament by losing Yuya Osako at a corner to concede the goal that sealed an opening loss. The full-back ended it by getting sucked into the thick of an unpleasant, aggressive 120-minute exhibition against England in the round of 16 defeat on penalties.
He didn't play anywhere near as well as we know he can.
Stock Up: Diego Laxalt, Genoa and Uruguay
Uruguay's fighting style—the Garra Charrua—is embodied by their players, and few showed more of that famous spirit than Diego Laxalt this summer.
The 25-year-old has gradually filtered toward the defence in his career, beginning as a winger, finding his feet as a wing-back before shining as a full-back at the World Cup. His all-action, committed style will have impressed many.
The Sun's Alan Nixon reported recently that both AFC Bournemouth and Everton are interested in him—two links that make sense given both clubs could use either an upgrade or a long-term plan in that area.
Stock Down: Jerome Boateng, Bayern Munich and Germany
Bayern Munich chiefs admitted ahead of the World Cup that longtime centre-back Jerome Boateng could be available at the right price, per Metro.
Perhaps this was intended as a motivator to the player—his performances have gradually declined over the years, admittedly partially due to regular injury issues—and with team-mate Niklas Sule a potentially great centre-back, he's never felt more expendable.
Well, any clubs considering serious offers for Boateng will have had second thoughts after watching him in Russia. It's important to remember he was offered zero protection from his midfield or manager and left to flounder far too often. However, you can't help but notice he's no longer no longer able to recover from errors as well, and a little bit lumbering at times.
He got sent off against Sweden. He even took a foul throw against Mexico.
A 29-year-old centre-back is supposed to be in his prime; instead, Boateng feels about five years past it.
Stock Up: Harry Maguire, Leicester City and England
Thirteen months ago, Harry Maguire joined Leicester City from relegated Hull City in a move that was quietly praised as a smart one. He'd shown immense promise with the Tigers and felt a cost-efficient pickup.
But while plenty were high on Maguire's abilities, few—if any—could have predicted the explosion in his stock to come. A good campaign with Leicester City paved his path to a starting berth for England this summer, and he was one of Gareth Southgate's best performers across a long stay in Russia.
He was imperious moving forward with the ball at his feet, defended stubbornly and utilised that massive frame to prove how effective he can be from set pieces. In the process, he let the world know how good he really is.
We're already at a stage where Manchester United's interest has been noted, and the Foxes are preparing a massive pay rise to try to keep him around, according to John Percy of the Telegraph.
Stock Down: Pione Sisto, Celta Vigo and Denmark
Over the last year we've seen Pione Sisto decide games for both club and country. He can cause real damage from the left flank with his dribbling, crossing and shooting—something multiple La Liga sides, plus the Republic of Ireland, have discovered in the recent past.
Much was expected of him in Russia, with Denmark badly in need of an alternate plan to "give it to Christian Eriksen and see if he can do something special." However, he was a shadow of his usual self, spending long periods without the ball, then losing it immediately on the rare occasion he came into contact with it.
That led him to stray from his position in search of possession, plus try extravagant things that were never likely to work. It was a suggestion that his game lacks maturity. He ended up losing his starting spot ahead of the round-of-16 clash with Croatia, playing just 14 minutes off the bench.
Stock Up: Saeid Ezatolahi, Rostov and Iran
The monstrous performance Saeid Ezatolahi put in during Iran's narrow 1-0 loss to Spain will not have gone unnoticed. He was everywhere, tracking runs and closing out space expertly, using his physicality to move opponents off balance and clearing effectively.
For many, that will have been the first time watching Ezatolahi, a 21-year-old who spent last season on loan at Amkar Perm in Russia. His career so far has been a little nomadic, intriguingly spending a year with Atletico Madrid before heading east, so perhaps it's no surprise he was so disciplined and solid having come into contact with Diego Simeone!
He's the right age and just the right amount of "obscure" (in the grand scheme of things) to qualify as potentially low-risk, sneaky post-World Cup buy.
Stock Down: Grzegorz Krychowiak, Paris Saint-Germain and Poland
It's been a tough 24 months for Grzegorz Krychowiak's stock.
His big move to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2016 hasn't panned out as planned, playing sparingly for them in season one before being sent to West Bromwich Albion on loan the following year. There he was relegated, fell out with the manager and came into the World Cup out of form.
That really showed in his performances in Russia; despite netting a header against Senegal in the group stage he didn't play well, mistiming most of his tackles, committing too many fouls and producing one horrendous pass that caused a miscommunication in defence and led to a comical goal.
Where does he go from here?
Stock Up: Aleksandr Golovin, CSKA Moscow and Russia
Per B/R's Dean Jones, Aleksandr Golovin has gone from being "on Chelsea's radar" to the club now "confident a transfer will be concluded" this summer. It looks a lot like a £26 million deal could be on the cards.
Golovin started Russia's opening World Cup game against Saudi Arabia on the left flank and was sparingly involved in the early stages, but things changed when Alan Dzagoev pulled his hamstring in the 24th minute, pushing Golovin into the central playmaker position.
From there he ran riot, weaving between the lines, carrying the ball forward from deep, cutting defences open with slick passing and netting a beauty of a free-kick himself. His deftness in tight spaces would suit manager Maurizio Sarri's playing style...and his nationality would keep owner Roman Abramovich happy.
The perfect transfer?
Stock Down: Maximiliano Meza, Independiente and Argentina
There's plenty of homegrown talent plying their trade in the Argentinian leagues, and no one will hold it against Jorge Sampaoli that he dipped into those reserves while building his World Cup squad. The problem is he selected the wrong players.
Not one of the four players called up from home fully convinced, with only Cristian Pavon showing flashes of ability. The worst of the quartet (by a distance) was Independiente's Maximiliano Meza, who entered Argentina's setup for the first time back in March and went on to appear in all four of La Albiceleste's games in Russia, starting two.
Perhaps the omens were there from the start—he made his full debut and played 90 minutes in the 6-1 loss to Spain. It got better from there, but only by a little: He was poor in every appearance at the World Cup, botching touches, miscontrolling balls out of play and getting in the way of Lionel Messi too regularly for comfort.
Meza, 25, has spent his career to date playing in Argentina. Based on what we've just seen, it seems likely that won't change any time soon.
All statistics via WhoScored.com