Clubs Must Beware Of The World Cup Hype

After every World Cup, English clubs sign players based on their performances on a very different stage. Why buy those now over-priced by recent brief success?

Last Updated: 15/07/14 at 10:04 Post Comment

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Given the very modern demand for instant information and news, it begins almost as soon as the ball hits the back of the net, or the final whistle blows. Social media and gossip columns surge into overdrive, all awash with rumour, counter-rumour and predictions of prominence, valuations rising like a tidal wave of PR and bulls**t: A player has done something special at the World Cup. In 1968, Andy Warhol spoke of society's overwhelming clamour for 15 minutes of fame; these days you're lucky to get five.

During the past five weeks in Brazil, stars have been born. Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado is now valued at £30million and Colombia's James Rodriguez £70million, we are told, whilst Divock Origi's goal for Belgium against Russia has led to a cavalcade of club representatives falling over each other in a bid to land this next luminary on Belgium's particularly stellar conveyor belt of talent. His fee will be north of £10m. "But he's only ever started 12 league matches," a cynic may reason, only to be told that their opinion is particularly unwelcome amongst the mood of hysteria.

Of course, there are valid reasons why impressive performances at the World Cup may tempt a club into a purchase. This is football's greatest stage, and an aptitude for displaying your quality in such a high-profile and high-pressure situation deserves huge praise.

It does not, however, make signing such players a logical next step, particularly given the hoopla and whipped-up frenzy that surrounds the World Cup bandwagon.

This is a bubble, a month-long window of the unpredictable and undependable. International football is markedly different from club football, and a 30-day tournament simply lengthens this bridge to domestic reality, accentuating the need for some of the qualities cherished at club level and warping others, whilst factors such as national pride (so important within the international set-up) can be deemed almost worthless on the domestic stage. In addition, and to turn the typical cliché on its head, international tournaments are a sprint, not a marathon.

Yet this summer, as the sun set for the last time over Brazil's World Cup, managers across Europe were preparing to go cap in hand to their chairman. They had found their Next Big Thing. They want in on football's new star.

History urges buyers not to believe the hype. Real Betis paid a world record fee of £21.5million for Denilson in 1998 after Brazil's run to the final in France 98, only to suffer relegation from La Liga in his second season following an inauspicious initial impression.

Closer to home, Manchester United may have brought a World Cup winner to the club in 2002, but Kleberson never threatened to mirror his international form from South Korea and Japan during his two seasons in England, and he was allowed to join Besiktas. Newcastle fans will finally be able to offer a wry smile in answer to any questions regarding their World Cup-winning signing in 1998, Stephane Guivarc'h playing more minutes during the World Cup for France than he managed in the Premier League. Jaime Moreno (Bolivia and Middlesbrough), Cobi Jones (USA and Coventry), Daniel Amokachi (Nigeria and Everton) and Alberto Tarantini (Argentina and Birmingham City) are examples to prove that this is by no means a purely modern affliction.

Liverpool have suffered more than most from their post-tournament shop window temptation. Salif Diao, Philipp Degen, Milan Jovanovic and Fabio Borini were all bought off the back of impressive displays for their country, but El Hadji Diouf may well win the award for the most spectacularly ill-advised punt. Diouf was brilliant in Senegal's run to the 2002 World Cup quarter-finals, with Gerard Houllier paying Lens £10million for the forward. Diouf scored three times in as many years, with Jamie Carragher describing him as "always the last one to get picked in training".

This summer's obvious example seems to be Enner Valencia, who scored three times for Ecuador against Honduras and Switzerland before they were knocked out in the group stage. Without being overly harsh on Sam Allardyce and West Ham, their recent transfer activity has been easy to file under 'Inside The Box', with the only fees spent last summer on Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. Razvan Rat did arrive from Ukraine, but was released in January alongside fellow free transfer Mladen Petric.

The previous season Modibo Maiga, Raphael Spiegel and Alou Diarra also arrived from abroad, but one (£7million striker Maiga) was loaned to the Championship, another (Diarra) has been released and the third (Spiegel) has never made a league appearance. I may be falsely accusing Allardyce here, but one suspects that 25-year-old Pachuca forward Valencia was not on the club's transfer radar five weeks ago, and yet a £12million deal now seems imminent.

There is no proof that Valencia will be a failure in England, and his record at Pachuca is impressive, but doubts must surely exist about the Ecuadorian's ability to repay such a fee in a new league on a new continent, enlarged by his 270-minute cameo in Brazil. Not in the eyes of Stewart Downing, who offered a glorious nod to kneejerk conclusions.

"From what I've seen of Valencia against England, he looks a very good player," Downing insisted. "He can nick a goal and it is competition for places. It's what we've needed as we didn't have that last season." An opinion based on just 83 minutes.

Therein lies the principal issue with buying post-tournament. It is not as black-and-white as stating with great confidence that players will flop, merely that good performances at the World Cup engorge the fees expected by the selling club beyond the point of reasonable value. Eyes are lit up by pound signs and hands rubbed together gleefully as each goal sparks its own social media storm and viral sensation. Valencia moved to Pachuca from Emelec for £2.8million just eight months ago - a 640% annual percentage rise makes for a good investment indeed on the Mexicans' part.

In the technological age in which the footballing world is made so small by scouting programs, intricate player assessments and comparison matrices, it just seems phenomenally short-sighted to stump up a huge fee based on the performances within one tournament. It's like frantically present shopping for the kids on Christmas Eve, hopeful for bargains but ending up paying more than you wanted for an electronic gizmo simply because the sales assistant told you little Jack would be the envy of his mates.

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